Alex Sawicki, a senior on Nazareth Academy's softball team, had been paying attention. She knew that in the last three years the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies championship game had ended with a play by the third baseman.
This year's final was no different, as Sawicki fielded a ground ball and threw to first to cement Nazareth's 3-0 win over Villa Maria Academy on Friday for the school's fourth consecutive Catholic Academies title.
The play might have been routine, but Sawicki wasn't fielding ground balls a couple of days ago. She had started the season for the Pandas at third but moved to the outfield to give it more depth. Thursday was Sawicki's first practice back at third in months.
"Moving back really wasn't that big of a deal, but it was just that I had a day notice," she said. "It was definitely weird going from outfield to third base."
Fellow senior Erica Cipolloni led the 19-0 Pandas with a strong performance at the plate and on the mound.
The righthander fooled Villa Maria's batters with her dominant screwball, rise and nasty change-up. Cipolloni threw a complete game, giving only a seventh-inning hit, walking one and striking out 12.
"We don't see that much fast pitching, don't see it enough to do well with it," Villa Maria coach Rocco Moyer said.
Cipolloni has dominated the 13-6 Hurricanes like that all season. In their first meeting she threw a no-hitter in a 4-0 victory, and just a few weeks ago, she threw another one-hitter as Nazareth won handily, 14-0.
"We were getting around on her. We are getting better because we are seeing it more often and we are getting an idea now. There's no being intimidated anymore," Moyer said.
If the fifth-seeded Hurricanes beat Sun Valley in Friday's District 1 Class AAA playoff game, they could face top-seeded Nazareth again in the semifinals.
"Last year, we lost in the quarterfinals of the states," Nazareth head coach Bob Keating said. "This year, this team has the ability if we put everything together and everyone stays healthy to do better."
Cipolloni, headed to the University of Virginia in the fall, also helped her team offensively, getting on base all three times she batted. She tripled, singled and reached on an error. The speedy leadoff hitter scored all three of her team's runs, stealing two bases in the process.
"This is the beginning of our season, this championship," Cipolloni said. "This game was just another game that's just going to prepare us for our upcoming season."
"This is the part of the season we've been waiting for," junior catcher Alicia Keough added.
Villa Maria 000 000 0 - 0 1 3
Nazareth 101 010 x - 3 5 0
WP: Erica Cipolloni. LP: Erin Macri. 3B: N–Cipolloni.