By MICHAEL LETENDRE
2017 Class S Softball Championship Game
Who: No. 9 St. Paul Catholic (21-5) vs. No. 2 Holy Cross (25-2)
Where: Frank Biondi Softball Field, West Haven high school
When: Friday, June 9
Time: 7 p.m.
The Series: This past season, rival Holy Cross defeated St. Paul Catholic 5-3 in a come-from-behind victory back on May 1. It was the only meeting of the season between the two outstanding squads.
Road to the Finals, St. Paul:
First Round – St. Paul Catholic 8, No. 24 St. Bernard 1
Second Round – St. Paul Catholic 7, No. 8 Stafford 0
Quarterfinals – St. Paul Catholic 7, No. 1 East Granby 3
Semifinals – St. Paul Catholic 9, No. 12 Coventry 8
Road to the Finals, Holy Cross:
First Round – Holy Cross 12, No. 31 Bolton 0
Second Round – Holy Cross 15, No. 15 Tourtellotte 0
Quarterfinals – Holy Cross 4, No. 7 Hale Ray 0
Semifinals – Holy Cross 2, No. 3 Wamogo 1
Facts about St. Paul Catholic: This is the first Class S championship game for the squad, who just came up short in 2000 in the semifinal round, losing to state runner up Coginchaug, 5-2.
The Falcons are coming off an outstanding 16-4 regular season, losing those four games by just two runs apiece and eight total runs overall.
St. Paul Catholic went 1-1 in NVL Tournament play, falling to top ranked Seymour (5-0) in the semifinals.
The Falcons averaged 11.4 runs-per-game and batted a neat .413 during regular season play.
Facts about Holy Cross: Coming into the showdown, the Crusaders are looking for their third straight Class S title.
The program has not allowed a run in championship play over its last two title games, scoring six total runs in the process.
Holy Cross didn’t lose to many times this year, dropping only a 1-0 decision to Seymour back on April 3 before winning its final 19 regular season games.
The Crusaders two loses were both to the Wildcats in regular season and NVL Tournament play.
Holy Cross has just allowed just one run in postseason action and that came against semifinal round opponent Wamogo (2-1).
The Crusaders have outscored its opponents 33-1 in state tournament play, a very impressive ledger.
Championship History, St. Paul Catholic: It’s the first title game in school history for the Falcons.
Championship History, Holy Cross: It’s the Crusaders sixth final’s appearance, going 3-2 overall in championship play. Defeated Notre Dame-Fairfield in 2016, 2-0; Defeated Thomaston in 2015, 4-0; Lost to Westhill in 1992, 6-1; Defeated Norwalk in 1989, 1-0; Lost to Southington in 1986, 1-0.
Who to Watch, St. Paul Catholic: Alessandra Milardo (Captain), sr, pitcher; Brigid Johndrow (Captain), sr, centerfield; Brooke Perez (Captain), sr, second base; Janessa Gonzalez, fr, third base; Lindsey O’Bright, jr, catcher; Katelynn Ouellette, jr, first base; Abby Poirot, so, left field; Jessica Persechino, so, shortstop; Katrina Roy, fr, right field.
Who to Watch, Holy Cross: Sarah Lawton, sr, pitcher; Alex Lombardo, jr; Allie Brown, so; Lizzy Diorio, fr; Gabby Goldman, sr; Hannah Brown, so; Val Nobrega, so, second base; Aubry DeFoe, sr.
Holy Cross can’t…let a leadoff hitter like Brigid Johndrow get on base. You know she’ll steal a base and cause general havoc the Crusaders would rather not have to tangle with.
St. Paul Catholic must…be patient against star pitcher, Holy Cross’s Sarah Lawton. She throws fast, she throws strikes, and the Falcons must put the ball in play and allow the Crusaders’ defense to make mistakes.
What to expect: This is going to be a good one.
Two exceptional pitchers are taking the mound in the Class S championship as Milardo will battle Lawton in a pitch-for-pitch challenge.
Milardo showed her mettle in the Coventry contest, never wavering as she struck out three over her complete game win.
But it’s truly up to her defense to turn all those ground balls into outs.
The battery is strong in the form of Milardo and O’Bright while the outfield, headlined by Johndrow in centerfield, is one of the real strengths of the squad.
Poirot in left and Roy in right also are big play-makers and make up a strong crew in the outfield.
If Gonzalez at third, Perez at second, Persechino at shortstop and Ouellette at first base can make all the plays and limit the miscues, the Falcons have a chance in taking this game.
However, getting past Coventry was the big one – leading to the squad’s first chance at a state title in school history.
“This was the game we wanted, to have the opportunity to play in that [championship] game,” said St. Paul Catholic coach Gary Hovhanessian. “Now it’s 50/50, winner take all. Holy Cross is a great team, we know that. They’re the defending champs for two years.”
The one element that the Falcons showed against the Patriots was tenacity and that’s something you just don’t develop overnight.
Coming back from six runs down showed exactly the kind of grit and determination that was needed against a very explosive Coventry team.
Now the focus shifts to Holy Cross, an outfit the Falcons were more than capable of picking off this year.
The Crusaders defeated the Falcons 5-3 earlier season but that result is thrown out the window because it’s even-steven on the biggest stage of them all.
“That’s what we played for. We played for that one more shot at Holy Cross,” said Hovhanessian.
Lawton (11 K’s versus Wamogo) is the real deal and shutdown an excellent squad in semifinal play.
The senior has tallied 900 strikeouts over her career and loves the ‘riseball’ to punch out batter after batter.
Lawton and Cross are the real deal, allowing just 17 runs to cross home plate during regular season play.
Goldman, Nobrega, Diorio, Defoe and Hannah Brown can all hit the ball and Milardo and the defense must limit the damage.
On paper, the game might like a bit of a mismatch with the Crusaders coming in as the two-time reigning champs, having ‘been there and done that’ advantage in the championship tilt but a hungry Falcons’ team is ready to pull off what would be a bit of an upset.
But it’s the title contest and anything is possible.
And a very humble St. Paul Catholic squad knows exactly how difficult is it to get to the championship game and all the hard work it took to make it there.
“[It means] so much,” said Millard of getting to the Class S championship game. “Coming from four years and my freshman year we hadn’t even made the tournament in like four years and me and my three captains, we kept rebuilding the program and we didn’t want to lose this one.”
“We kept saying this is our final year, we have to go out with a bang, we have to show them what St. Paul softball is made of.”
The bottom line is that St. Paul Catholic is a good softball team, a fact Holy Cross cannot shy away from.
Final Score: No prediction this time around. It’s going to be worth the ride to see this one for yourself in West Haven.