WEST HAVEN >> Holy Cross softball broke through a 23-year dry spell for a 4-0 win over defending champion Thomaston in the Class S state final at West Haven Saturday afternoon.
“Right after our Senior Night, I knew it would be a great postseason,” first-year head coach Megan Dwyer said. “The girls really came together and bonded.”
The No. 5 seed Crusaders (21-6), who finished fourth in the Naugatuck Valley League, lost a non-conference game 3-2 to Berkshire League champion and No. 2 seed Thomaston (23-1) a month ago.
“They hit me,” said Cross’ sophomore pitcher Sarah Lawton. “I mixed in a lot more pitches this game.”
The result was a dazzling one-hitter, beginning with strikeouts for eight of the first nine Golden Bear batters. Lawton finished with 15 strikeouts in a one-hitter that earned her the MVP award for the game.
Despite Lawton’s riveting start, Thomaston is known statewide for brushing aside trouble on its way to two straight basketball championships and last year’s softball championship with many of these players.
“(Lawton’s) a very powerful pitcher,” said Thomaston coach Kelly Finlay, in her first year as solo head coach after winning as co-coach last year. “We didn’t really adjust.”
While Lawton mastered the Golden Bear offense, Thomaston’s defense held on for three innings.
Crusader Casey DeZinno, with a hit in the first inning, made it to second. Pinch runner Kristina Razzo got to third in the second inning on Alexandra Lombardo’s walk. Sydney McIldowie scrambled to second in the third inning on a passed ball strikeout and groundout.
Close, but still anybody’s ballgame — if the Bears could figure out Lawton — and if Thomaston pitcher Morgan Sanson (7 innings, 4 earned runs, 10 hits, 4 strikeouts, 4 walks) settled down as she did in the semifinal win against Hale-Ray Wednesday.
The “if’s” fell to Crusader focus.
“I’ve been going through a long slump,” said Holy Cross catcher Paige Hine. “It was really frustrating because it’s my senior year and I wanted to do well. The last few games, I lit up inside and said, ‘It’s now or never.’”
Hine, who finished 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs, led off the fourth inning with a double. Lombardo sacrificed her to third. Nicole Strielkauskas laid down a squeeze bunt single in Hine’s shadow coming from third for the game’s first run.
Thomaston’s Sanson broke Lawton’s no-hitter with a single in the bottom of the inning, but, despite a walk to Nicole Schaefer, moving Sanson to second, nobody else came close to touching Lawton.
Thanks to that, three more Holy Cross runs in the fifth inning seemed as big as a 10-run fifth inning by Thomaston in the semis.
DeZinno walked, Lawton tripled, Hine singled, giving way to pinch runner Becca Anderson. Then Lombardo and Aubry Defoe singled.
For Thomaston players and fans, the inning was endless.
Lawton gave Thomaston no hope. She struck out the No. 2, 3 and 4 Bears in the lineup in the sixth, then finished with three straight outs in the seventh.
“We never stopped fighting,” Finlay said.
For 23 years, Holy Cross fans never stopped hoping.
No. 5 Holy Cross 4, No. 2 Thomaston 0
At West Haven High School
Holy Cross 000 130 0 – 4 10 0
Thomaston 000 000 0 – 0 1 0
WP: Sarah Lawton. LP: Morgan Sanson. 3B: HC – Lawton. 2B: HC – Sydney McIldowie; Paige Hine.
Records: Holy Cross 21-6; Thomaston 23-1.