Softball: St. Joseph plays higher than its seed in states

St. Joseph's Jovanna Hillman's home run ignited the attack for the Cadets in their 11-5 win over Watertown. — Bill Bloxsom photo
St. Joseph's Jovanna Hillman's home run ignited the attack for the Cadets in their 11-5 win over Watertown. — Bill Bloxsom photo

The St. Joseph softball team wasn’t seeded high for the Class M state tournament.

But what coach Jeff Babineau’s 17th-seeded Cadets brought to the postseason was a softball IQ that has carried them to three consecutive victories and a spot in the state semifinals.

St. Joseph overcame a 3-0 deficit with a blistering 14-hit attack and some exceptional base running, to defeat ninth-seeded Watertown High 11-5 on Friday.

The Cadets (15-8) will play No. 4 Seymour (21-2) in the semifinals at a date time and place to be determined. The defending champion Wildcats, defeated No. 5 Granby (19-3) by a score of 2-1.

“We’ve been facing that (adversity) all season long,” Babineau said. “Down 3-0 isn’t what you want, but they handled it very well. Everyone’s contributing at the plate for us, sharing it through the order.”

Jovanna Hillman, Kayla Giacobbe, Hannah Hutchison and Julia Basso each drove in two runs, with Hillman and Giacobbe hammering home runs to dead center in consecutive innings to get St. Joseph within 3-2.

Hutchison had two triples in the fifth inning when the Cadets sent 12 batters to the plate and scored eight times to snap a 3-3 tie.

St. Joseph showed off its ability to play with pizzazz in that frame to keep the line moving and the runs coming.

Giacobbe was up with runners on the corners when she hit the ball to the left side of the infield and Watertown’s Chloe DeFeo came up with the grounder. As prescribed, she looked back Hanna Errico at third and threw to first for the out.

Errico, instead of taking a step back to third however, held her ground. When the throw went to first, the plucky senior headed home and slid in safely ahead of the relay.

“We practice the read and react,” Babineau acknowledged. “We took the extra base when we could.”

Alyssa Noce singled to take the score to 6-3 and then went to third on Cami Heintz’s infield hit. Surprised by the daring running, Watertown threw late to third, and Heintz alertly snuck into second behind the play.

Basso promptly singled them both home.

Cat Connell singled to put two runners on for Hutchison, who after tripling up the gap to start the uprising hit a three-bagger down the right field line to plate two more.

Errico used her speed to beat out a roller to the right side, as Hutchison scored to make it 11-3.

Watertown (16-7) used a game-opening error followed by three hits to put a three-spot on the board in the first.

Cadet starter Payton Doiron struck out three batters in the inning, and set down the home team in order in the second. In the third, with Watertown still leading 3-1, the right-handed freshman stranded two baserunners.

After Watertown opened the fifth with two base hits, the left-handed Connell came in to pitch for the right-handed Doiron and got three outs. Heintz at third made a fine play on Jackie Baldoni’s’s rip toward the third base bag for the first out.

Connell, a sophomore,  set down six straight batters before Watertown added two runs to its ledger in the seventh.

“Both our pitchers threw well and got the outs,” Babineau said of his tandem. “It’s an excellent option for us especially going righty-lefty.”

Giacobbe's homer came with out out in the fourth.

Noce walked and Heintz doubled to the fence in left.

Watertown pitcher Taylor Mancione made a diving catch on Basso's bunt attempt.

She tried to turn it into a double play, but her throw to centerfielder Baldoni covering second went into the vacated outfield position.

Noce scored easily to tie the game at 3-3.