LOWELL— For the second season in a row the Rockport softball team had a successful run in the state tournament, and for the second year in a row the run came to an end at the hands of St. Mary's.
In Friday's Division 3 North Semi Final tilt with the No. 6 Spartans, No. 2 Rockport did not play poorly. The Vikings, however, were no match for the four time defending Division 3 North sectional champions as the Spartans roped 13 hits and got a masterful pitching performance from Brooke L'Abbe en route to an 8-1 win at Martin Field.
The win sends St. Mary's to the Division 3 North Finals and finishes off the longest tournament run in Rockport softball history.
"They were a great team offensively and defensively," Vikings head coach Dianne Parisi said. "When they hit the ball they hit it hard and hit the gaps. But I'm still very proud of my team, we had an incredible season, we just ran into a great team today."
The Spartans (17-6) used a balanced attack to end Rockport's (16-5) season Friday. On the mound L'Abbe nearly silenced the Vikings offense allowing a run on just three hits, two of them from Gabby Muniz, and striking out five.
Offensively St. Mary's was relentless scoring no more than two runs in one inning but putting a run across the plate in five of seven innings.
"They just chipped away at us," Parisi said. "There were no huge rallies but when they got runners on base they drove them in. We struggled in that area today."
Rockport's Hannah Lorden led off the game with a single but L'Abbe settled in and did not allow another base runner until senior captain Amanda Chalmers walked in the fourth inning.
The Spartans took a 1-0 lead in the second when Kaleigh Finigan came home on a Abby Caggiano grounder to second base. St. Mary's opened it up from there with a pair of runs in the second and third, a run in the fifth and two runs in the sixth inning. Finigan led the Spartans offense with three hits and a pair of RBIs while L'Abbe and Alison Butler chipped in two hits and two RBIs each.
Rockport scored its only run in the fourth inning when Chalmers came in to score on a Kayla Parisi ground out. Chalmers started off the inning with a walk and was moved over to third on a Muniz single. Whenever Rockport appeared to threaten, however, L'Abbe made a big pitch.
"(L'Abbe) was tough on us," Parisi said. "She had a hard fastball and used her off speed tough at opportune times. They are just a very good team from top to bottom."
Defensively both teams were flawless with Chalmers seeing most of the action recording three put outs and four assists on ground balls to second base.
While the loss was surely disappointing, Parisi could only praise the effort of her team, especially senior starters Chalmers, Kristin Turner, Kendra Adams and Haley Lorden.
"These girls helped put Rockport softball on the map," Parisi said. "They're not only great players but great leaders and have set examples for the younger kids on the team. They helped us learn how to win and they will definitely be missed."
While the four senior starters will be key losses for Rockport heading into the 2013 season, the team still has five starters returning from the most successful team in school history, including its two best hitters in Sophomores Muniz and Mollie Watson, both two time Cape Ann League All Stars. Sophomore's Hannah Lorden and Meghan Tupper along with Freshman Parisi give the Vikings a positive outlook for the future.
"These girls may be young but they all have experience and they all know how to win," Parisi said.