LOWELL, Mass. – Revere had already accomplished something by the first inning of Wednesday night’s Division 1 Eastern Mass. softball final that no other team had this postseason. The Patriots put up a run on Bridgewater-Raynham starter Sarah Dawson, after a streak of 28 consecutive scoreless playoff innings.
While the upstart Patriots came out swinging against the South champion Trojans, they were unable to sustain the momentum, as B-R busted out in a three-run third in a 3-1 to advance to Saturday’s state championship game against Central champion Holy Name.
“I had a thought that, ‘Oh, there’s the one,’ and I wasn’t letting up any more,” Dawson said.
The junior University of Pittsburgh commit settled down after surrendering her first and only run of the playoffs to date. Dawson, who threw a no-hitter in Monday’s South sectional final against North Attleborough, allowed just two base runners past the first innings. She finished with nine strikeouts on the game, while recording five of the final six outs of the game by punch out.
Revere starter Sabrina Palermo kept the Trojans off balance in the early going as well, facing just two batters over the minimum entering the fourth.
That’s when some timely hitting and opportunistic base-running paid off for B-R.
“We probably should have waited a little bit more – [we were] a little impatient,” Trojans catcher Emily Kurkul said her team’s approach at the plate. “We were going a little too quick. The second time through we were much more determined to stay back and look at pitches to get hits.”
Kurkul, who leads the state with 12 home runs on the season, boosted her slugging percentage further with a lead-off double in the fourth – B-R’s second hit off Palermo. The Trojans would then load the bases with walks by Jenny Heller and Stephanie Cavallaro.
Sophie Perez tied the score with a sacrifice fly to center, allowing courtesy runner Taylor Poulin (in Kurkul’s proxy) to score easily.
That’s when the inning took a turn. With two outs and a 1-2 count on Trojans first baseman Holly Greet, Palermo threw a wild pitch. Heller came down the line and slid into home, but the throw from the backstop went back into the infield, allowing Cavallaro to score all the way from second as well.
The run support was all Dawson would need as she closed the door on the Patriots, finishing the game by striking out the side in the seventh.
Revere scored its first-inning run with a two-out rally. Catcher Juliana Cecere singled before Kristina Stella doubled her home with a gap shot to left-center field.
It’s not how you start that counts: Although the Trojans found themselves in an unfamiliar position playing catch up, there was an awful lot of game to go.
“At that point, we’re not going into any kind of panic mode,” B-R coach Mike Carrozza said.
A big part of the reason why the Trojans weren’t about to worry was their ace. Although Dawson proved mortal in allowing her first postseason run, she wasn’t about to let the game slip away either.
“She was reaching back and she knows that she wants the game,” Carrozza said. “She knew that she was going to have to reach back a little bit and we started using the changeup a lot more in the third inning, just so they realized it was there.”
The changeup was the key component of Dawson’s arsenal on Wedesday, and B-R’s brain trust, with Kurkul behind the plate, sought to make sure the Patriots didn’t have the same kinds of swing the second time through the lineup.
“It’s a big part of the game – keeping them off balance,” Kurkul said. “You can’t just throw fastballs all the time, they’re going to hit you.”
Dawson’s changeup also came with a secondary benefit – seemingly adding velocity to an already plus-fastball. It proved an effective combination.
“I was able to spot it, put it in the dirt a couple of times,” Dawson said. “It made them swing, get them off-speed, get them off-balance.”