MONROE >> There will be a new Class L state softball champion.
Sacred Heart Academy’s Molly Flowers outdueled Masuk’s Tatum Buckley, and the 19th-seeded Pacers knocked off No. 3 Masuk, the defending champions, 3-1 in this second-round contest Tuesday.
Flowers scattered seven hits, walked one and struck out 13. Masuk loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh with two outs, but Flowers struck out the side to help Sacred Heart Academy advance.
“That (Masuk) is a great team,” Sacred Heart Academy coach Ray Ramelli said. “That’s a great pitcher (Buckley), and a great team, but we wanted to show that our Molly, and our kids, can play with these guys. We come from the SCC (Southern Connecticut Conference), and we’re proud of that. I’m just so happy for Molly, and for the kids.”
The Pacers tagged Buckley for four hits in the first inning, including Amanda Beecher’s two-run home run.
“That first inning was just amazing,” Beecher said. “We needed to go out there and hit the ball hard, and we did. That’s what we came to do. Everybody underestimated us, but we went out there and did our best.”
Said Flowers: “That (home run) was huge. Amanda’s been hitting great all year, and just to come out and hit it off someone like Tatum, who’s phenomenal, is just what drilled us to keep playing well.”
Flowers, who led the Pacers to the Class M title as a freshman in 2011, escaped several jams Tuesday. After two errors put runners on second and third in the third, Flowers induced a ground ball to end the inning.
Masuk (19-4) mustered its only run off Flowers when Steph Appelberg hit a solo home run in the fourth, but Sacred Heart Academy turned a double play in the inning to prevent further damage. The Panthers had three hits in that inning but managed just one run.
“It (big games) pumps me up,” Flowers said. “I feel like I throw harder in games like this. It pumps me up, and it pumps my teammates up.”
Masuk left eight runners on base, including four in scoring position. But Panthers coach Jacqueline Sheftz was satisfied with how her team fought, especially in the final inning.
“I’m really proud of this group, they didn’t die at the end,” Sheftz said. “You have to tip your cap to Sacred Heart Academy for coming onto our field and taking the game from us. They did a great job. Being down 2-0 before we get the bats in our hands is tough. But our team didn’t die, and I think we showed a lot of guts. We just didn’t come up with the key hit today.”
Buckley allowed eight hits and struck out eight in her final high school game.
Sacred Heart Academy added an insurance run when Brittany LaChance scored on an error in the top of the seventh. Becca Marks and Courtney Nowicki each had two hits for the Pacers.
The mission continues for Sacred Heart Academy (12-10) when they face SCC rival Law in Thursday’s quarterfinals. The Pacers won both meetings against during the regular season. Sacred Heart Academy is playing with a purpose since Ramelli announced he will retire as coach at the end of the season.
“We definitely want to do it for Coach,” Flowers said. “When I came in, we won, and we want to go out winning.”
SACRED HEART ACADEMY 3, MASUK 1
Sacred Heart Academy 200 000 1 — 3 8 2
Masuk 000 100 0 — 1 7 1
Molly Flowers and Maighread Scafariello; Tatum Buckley and Kayla Crisci.
WP: Molly Flowers. LP: Tatum Buckley. Hr: Amanda Beecher (SHA); Stephanie Appelberg (MK); RBI: Beecher (2) (SHA); Appelberg (MK);
Team records: Sacred Heart Academy 12-10; Masuk 19-4.