DURHAM >> St. Bernard head coach Brittany Connors was an assistant when Coginchaug defeated the Saints in the 2012 Class S state championship game.
So after stunning Shoreline Conference champ Morgan in the second round, Connors and the Saints were looking to advance again on Thursday and maybe even gain a little revenge in Durham.
But Gabby Diaz had other ideas.
Diaz, the Blue Devils’ unflappable sophomore pitcher, got out of a bases loaded jam in the third inning and then silenced the Saints the rest of the way as Coginchaug rolled into the Class S semifinals with a 3-1 victory.
The No. 12 Blue Devils (16-8) will meet the winner of today’s matchup between No. 16 Stafford (13-8) and No. 8 Old Saybrook (16-6).
‘Gabby’s been holding us together,” said Coginchaug coach Ann Moscovics. “She’s so composed. The girls are working hard, they’re getting along together, and they’re working for one another. They are all contributing. So we are where we want to be.”
Diaz allowed just five hits, struck out five and walked one.
“I was just so hyped during the game and all the enthusiasm from the entire team was just such a big help, “ said Diaz. “We’re so excited to be here (semifinals).”
The Saints loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the third inning. After an infield pop-out, senior Gretchen Greene hit a grounder to Taylor Marino at second base but Marino’s throw to the plate was late and Sophie Nelson, who led off the inning with a bloop single, slid home for a 1-0 lead.
But that’s all the Saints could muster off Diaz, who notched back-to-back strikeouts with the bases still loaded.
“I’ve been in situations like that before and my biggest thought is just not to stress,” said Diaz. “It’s like you’re going into the first inning with no runs, no nothing. So you just have to go in there and throw as hard as you can. It’s all attitude and confidence.”
Coginchaug answered in the bottom of the third when Destiny Helmedach and Diaz ripped consecutive singles. Helmedach reached third on Diaz’s hit but was thrown out at the plate on a nice play by Saints senior shortstop Ali Patterson, who threw home after fielding a sharp grounder by Courtney Votto.
But Diaz scored on senior pitcher Amy Bouchard’s wild pitch to tie it at 1.
The Blue Devils added the winning runs in the bottom of the fourth. Natalie Labasi reached on an infield error and Taylor Marino hit a bunt single. Senior Kiara Casanova then blasted a two-run double to left center for a 3-1 advantage.
St. Bernard (15-8) got two runners in scoring position with one out in the fifth. But Diaz worked out of it by inducing a pair of fly-outs.
“When we play our game we can beat anyone,” said Connors. “Our lineup, honestly, from top to bottom is one of the strongest. Every single one of them comes through with huge hits all the time. It just didn’t happen today.”