By Cary Shuman
St. Mary’s junior Mia Nowicki came on in relief and pitched four perfect innings to help the Spartans defeat Lynn Classical, 6-4, in nine innings in the championship game of the John Holland Memorial Tournament Sunday at Grace Rogato Field.
Nowicki, a flame-throwing righthander, retired all 12 batters she faced, eight via strikeouts, to close the door on the Rams’ chances for an upset in the final. Saturday night in the tournament semifinal, Nowicki had struck out 15 Swampscott batters in a 1-0 victory.
It goes without saying that Mia Nowicki was the unanimous choice for the Holland Tournament MVP Award.
“I’m honored to receive this award but this championship took a total team effort,” said Nowicki. “Michaela [Hamill] and Tori [Adams] really pitched very well and we got some great defense and clutch hitting when we needed it.”
St. Mary’s Hamill, who was also one of the batting stars, and Classical’s Adams went head-to-head on an unseasonably chilly day in the championship game. Hamill gives coach Paige Licata the luxury of having two big-time pitchers and the Endicott College-bound righthander kept her poise against an aggressive Classical batting order.
Adams impressed many in the crowd with her control and competitiveness after recording a big 7-6 win over Lynn English in the semifinal.
The clutch hitting that Nowicki referred to came in the ninth inning when Frankie Simon (double), Vanessa VanBuskirk (triple), and Katie Terban (singled) helped produce the go-ahead run and an insurance run.
Nowicki did the rest, closing out one of the best two-day pitching performances in the history of the Holland Tournament.
Classical coach Erica Richard, who has done a terrific job at the helm after years of sustained excellence engineered by former coach Chris Warren, said she was proud of her team’s performance against the 16-4 Spartans who loom as a Division 3 state title contender.
“It’s tough only getting to see her [Nowicki] once around the batting order but they went up there aggressively against one of the best pitchers in the state and that’s all you can ask for,” said Richard, whose team (11-9) qualified for the State Tournament. “We had our opportunities to win. This tournament is so awesome. Every kid wants it. They play with as much heart this weekend as they would a State Tournament game coming up.”
Licata said both of her pitchers, Hamill and Nowicki, put the team in position to win the tournament.
“Collectively Michaela pit-ched five great innings and Mia came in and finished it off in extra innings,” said Licata. “It’s great to have two great pitchers. It was great to see our seniors [Frankie Simon, Vanessa Buskirk, and Katie Terban] get the job done in their last Holland Tournament.”
As for Nowicki’s overpowering performance, Licata told reporters, “When she comes in, everyone is just amazed. Even though you know it, you’re still amazed at what she can do, especially after not pitching and coming in from right field [Nowicki’s defensive position] and doing that – it’s pretty exceptional. Mia is a very talented player and I’m just lucky to have her.”