MILFORD >> Molly Flowers had to rely on guts and heart instead of her trademark fastball when she took the circle against Law Friday.
Even without being at 100 percent due to a nagging left (non-throwing) shoulder problem, Flowers still stymied the Eagles in a 4-1 victory in the Class L state quarterfinals.
Flowers allowed three hits and just one — an RBI single by Aubrey Bepko in the bottom of the seventh inning — got out of the infield. Flowers also struck out five and hit one batter. Steph Cameron had two bunt singles for Law.
The re-occurring shoulder issue started about two or three weeks ago, and “hurts her when she takes a breath.” according to Sacred Heart Academy coach Ray Ramelli. The injury sometimes affects Flowers’ velocity.
“Today was one of the worst days, so she couldn’t really pop,” Ramelli said. “Today, she just didn’t feel like she could really release. She got by on heart and guts, and location.”
Said Flowers: “I felt OK. I just have to make sure my spins work. That’s what I focus on when I am not feeling well.”
Sacred Heart Academy will face Berlin in the semifinals on Monday at 7 p.m. at Biondi Field in West Haven. This is their first trip to this round since the Pacers won the Class M title in 2011.
Despite collecting just three hits, Law had several opportunities to score against Flowers. The Eagles stranded a runner at third in the first, had a player called out for running out of the base path after being caught in a rundown between third and home in the second, and left two on in the third.
“We set the table. We had a lot of runners on base,” Law coach Melanie Paolini said. “We did what we were supposed to do. Our goal was to put the ball in play, and not let Molly take care of 15 outs, and we did that. But a mistake on the bases, and not getting a hit with runners in scoring position, changes the whole game. Molly’s tough, and she’s tougher when she has the lead.”
Junior Becca Marks doubled with one out and then scored on senior Amanda Beecher’s double in the top of the first inning for the Pacers.
In the second, senior Courtney Nowicki singled to lead off the inning and then freshman Emily Drezek hit a two-run home run to center field to put Sacred Heart Academy up 3-0.
The Pacers have knocked off three higher seeded teams en route to the semifinals, including defending champion Masuk in the second round. Sacred Heart Academy scored twice in the first inning in the victory over Masuk, and scored three times through two innings against Law.
“Our coach always says just come into the states hot, and that’s what we’re doing,” Drezek said. “We just have to keep it up. We weren’t hitting that well during the regular season, but we’re coming in hot.”
Flowers added an RBI single in the fifth. Flowers was the winning pitcher as a freshman when the Pacers won the state title. Sacred Heart Academy was seeded No. 23 that year, but had seven seniors. This year, the Pacers start three freshmen and a sophomore.
“This is a lot of fun because I never know what they’re going to do,” Ramelli said about his underclassmen. “As long as you have Molly, you have a shot. If it ends, I couldn’t ask for anything more. Going to the final four, I never thought of this. Never.”
SACRED HEART ACADEMY 4, LAW 1
Sacred Heart Academy 120 010 0 — 4 6 3
Law 000 000 1 — 1 3 2
Molly Flowers and Maighread Scafariello; Jenna Bernard and Amanda Leone.
WP: Molly Flowers (13-7). LP: Jenna Bernard (14-8). 2B: (SHA) Becca Marks, Amanda Beecher. hr: Emily Drezek (SHA)RBI: Drezek (2), Flowers, Beecher (SHA); Anna Lynch (LAW).
Team records: Sacred Heart Academy 13-10; Law 17-8.