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Hilltoppers toppled by Holy Trinity, 5-1, in state semis

Stefanie Gozdziewski tried to hide it from her teammates, but like the rest of the Mary Louis softball team, she was nervous.

Head coach Steve Contino knew it, too. He tried his best to calm his team down before the Hilltoppers’ CHSAA state semifinal game against Holy Trinity Tuesday. He switched up the lineup, starting a senior over a sophomore for added stability, he even cracked jokes with the girls during the Titans’ infield practice.

It was to no avail. Mary Louis was tight and looked that way in the field. The usually strong defense was shaky, the usual unhittable Gozdziewski was hit hard and the result was a 5-1 Holy Trinity win at Hofstra University.

“We knew they were a very good hitting team, but I was a little upset at our defense,” Contino said. “I’m proud of them and we still have a lot of softball left.”

While Holy Trinity (24-6) advances to the state championship game Thursday against Moore Catholic at Fordham University, Mary Louis still has to play for the city championship, also against Moore Catholic next week.

That there is still another title to play for was reason enough for the Hilltoppers to walk off the field without shedding a tear.

“We want to get back and win the next one,” said Gozdziewski. “We’re a really good team and we all come to play everyday. Hopefully we’ll win.”

Gozdziewski entered the game with a 15-0 record and she held the Titans at bay through the first two innings, but then Lisa Figuccio singled to left-center field and Kerry Cook walked in the third inning. After Katie Zizza struck out, Holy Trinity pitcher Danielle Stallone ripped a single past a diving Jen McGroarty at second base to put the Titans ahead, 1-0.

While the Titans, who beat the Hilltoppers 10-6 in the Mary Louis Easter tournament earlier in the season, spent four days focusing on batting, even head coach Susan Cassidy was surprised at her team’s offensive output against Mary Louis.

“That was the most hits we ever had against a top team,” said Cassidy about her team’s nine hits. “That’s double what we usually do against a good team. That was big. I’m proud of our whole lineup.”

Mary Louis (24-4) tied the game in the top of the fourth inning as Erin Breen, who was 2-for-3, scored on Jennifer Flynn’s bunt single. The Hilltoppers threatened to score more with runners at second and third with one out, but Stallone bore down and struck out Lorina Lana and Patty Glauner to end the inning.

Holy Trinity answered back with a run in the bottom of the inning and another in the fifth on Stallone’s RBI-double to center field to put the Titans ahead, 3-1. Holy Trinity added a pair of insurance runs in the sixth inning to take a commanding 5-1 lead.

“The team tries not to put any pressure on me, but I always seem to get up with the tying run on base,” said Stallone, who was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a stolen base.

The reason the lead was so commanding was because Stallone was, too. The junior hurler scattered six hits and struck out 15, keeping the Hilltoppers off balance with a nice mix of pitches, including a nasty riser.

Mary Louis tried to rally late, as Lana and Glauner led off the seventh with back-to-back singles, but Stallone struck out the next three batters to end the game.

“Danielle keeps us in every game,” Cassidy said. “I felt if we can stay focused defensively, we always have a shot. She keeps us close.”

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext .143.

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