Sophomore Sabrina Palermo tossed a five hitter and Aliza Anderson drove in the winning run in the eighth inning to lead the Revere High softball team to a walk-off 3-2 victory over Lowell in the opening round of the North Sectional of the Division 1 MIAA softball tournament at Hill Park last Thursday.
The Lady Patriots entered the tourney as the 14th seed in the D-1 North with a 12-8 regular season record while Lowell came in as the 19th seed eighth seed with a 9-9 mark.
Palermo was in control from the beginning of the contest to the end, setting down Lowell scorelessly in every inning but the sixth, when the visitors from near the New Hampshire border pushed across two runs to tie the contest at 2-2.
“Lowell is a good hitting team and plays in a very tough conference (the Merrimack Valley League),” said RHS head coach. “They know how to hit and they put the ball in play, as evidenced by Sabrina striking out only five of their hitters. But our defense played superbly in the field behind her and that always proves to be the difference in a close ballgame.”
The Lady Patriots made it 1-0 in the opening inning when senior Jackie Noel walked, stole second, and scored on a double by sophomore Christina Stella. Revere added another marker in similar fashion in the second frame. Junior Logan DiCarlo singled, swiped second, and raced home on a base hit by freshman Julianna Cecere.
However, both Palermo and her Lowell counterpart took charge after that, with both hurlers stringing together three scoreless innings apiece until Lowell broke through in the sixth to knot matters at 2-2. The defenses of both teams also played key roles in the battle of scoreboard goose eggs. Among those who shone for Revere was Victoria Russo who was called upon by Ciccarello to start in left field because Anderson, the regular left fielder, had to attend a scholarship awards ceremony at the same time as the Thursday afternoon game.
However, that event (at which the academically-gifted Anderson received $6000 in scholarship funds) proved to be fortuitous in a couple of ways. Not only did Russo get a chance to make some big catches, but Anderson came to the field directly from the awards ceremony by the eighth inning.
Ally Hinojosa had started the eighth with a ringing triple to the gap, but was standing on third with two out when it was Russo’s turn to step up to the plate. Ciccarello decided to give Anderson, a senior, a turn at bat, a move which proved to be the proverbial stroke of genius. Aliza made her last at-bat at Hill Park a noteworthy one, stroking a base hit that sent Hinojosa scurrying home and sending the Revere side into a delirious state of joy.
“It was a great game and the girls were thrilled to win it,” said Ciccarello. “This is what sports and athletic competition is all about. It’s for games like these that you practice and play an entire season.”
The victory also had an even deeper significance for the Revere girls, because it marked the last softball game to be played at Hill Park, a field where all of the Lady Patriots have been playing since they were old enough to throw a softball. The playing area will soon be the site of a new school with the softball fields slated to go to a new complex hopefully by the 2015 season.
“Our prior two games at Hill had been our Senior Night (a loss to Waltham) and a Saturday afternoon game against Medford (also a defeat) and we had not played very well in either one,” noted Ciccarello. “So I told the girls that they would have to make the third time a charm and they did, with style.”
The dramatic victory earned the Lady Patriots the right to travel to Lexington to take on the third seeded Lady Minutemen, who sported an 18-2 regular season mark and were rated as one of the top teams in Division 1. In addition to the usual desire to win, the Lexington girls also were motivated by memories of last year’s stunning 2-0 loss in the tourney opening round to Revere in what rated as one of the top upsets of the entire 2012 state tournament.
“Maybe they took us lightly last year, but they certainly didn’t make that mistake this year,” said Ciccarello. “They were out for revenge from the beginning.”
The contest began inauspiciously for Revere, as Lexington struck for three runs in the bottom of the first. Lexington came out “swinging” in classic softball, small-ball style by bunting the ball. The Revere infield could not rise to the challenge, a fate which befell them throughout the contest.
“We simply did not make the plays that we had to make,” said Ciccarello, who noted that his team made 10 errors on the evening. “They were not difficult plays to make and they were of the sort that we’ve made all year, but a tournament game brings a different kind of pressure and we did not respond.”
However, even if the Lady Patriots had performed as flawlessly in the field as they had against Lowell, a victory would have been only a remote possibility given that the Lexington pitcher tossed a no-hitter.
“I told the girls that one game does not take away from what was a great season for us,” said Ciccarello. “Our motto for this year was, ‘Elevate.’ We improved our record from last year and made the tournament for the third year in a row. We also won a tournament game for the third straight year, which is something that not too many other programs can say they have accomplished.”
And withe Lady Patriots losing just two seniors, Anderson and Noel, to graduation, the 2014 campaign looms as another opportunity for the RHS softball program to elevate themselves to even greater heights.
Trio named NEC stars; Ciccarello Coach of Year
Three members of the Lady Patriot softball team were named to the Northeastern Conference North Division All-Star team: sophomore Christina Stella, sophomore pitcher Sabrina Palermo, and freshman Julianna Cecere. In addition, RHS head coach Joe Ciccarello was named the North Coach of the Year, marking the second straight season that Ciccarello has earned that accolade.