TAUNTON — Sofia Knopf put the Norton High softball team on her back at the beginning of the MIAA Division 2 South Sectionals, and with the Lancers’ 3-1 victory over top-seeded New Bedford Voke Wednesday night at Jack Tripp Field, Knopf has led Norton to the sectional final.
Knopf was brilliant in the pitcher’s circle, scattering seven hits and giving up just one run. The junior struck out six batters and stranded six New Bedford Voke baserunners, but her real damage came in the batter’s box.
Batting out of the nine hole, Knopf went 3-for-3, including a leadoff triple in the top of the fifth that ignited a three-run rally which proved to be enough for the victory.
“She’s been doing it all year long,” Lizzote said of Knopf who has allowed just two runs through three tournament games. “She’s a superstar. She was hurt early on in the season and we brought her back very slowly, knowing that it was going to be a long season and that we could make a nice run at the end.”
Next up for the No. 6 seed Lancers is a date with No. 6 seed Fairhaven in the sectional final Saturday at 1 p.m. back at Jack Tripp Field in Taunton.
In what was shaping up to be a pitchers’ duel, New Bedford Voke (20-3) got on the scoreboard first with a run in the bottom of the fourth inning.
The Bears loaded the bases with two outs and only mustered a single run on a fielder’s choice ground ball as Knopf struck out the final batter of the inning.
Norton (18-4) wasted no time on a comeback as Knopf ripped her leadoff triple over the head of the center fielder and scored the tying run on a bunt back to the pitcher by Liv Menyo that created a close play at the plate. Madison Correia stepped into the box next and sent a triple into the right-center field gap to bring home the go-ahead run in Menyo.
Clean-up batter Nicole Grainger (3-for-3) followed with an RBi double down the left field line to give Norton extra cushion with a 3-1 advantage.
“This team has had no panic all year long, I didn’t have to say anything” Lizotte said about his team immediately responding after falling behind. “Something I really appreciate about this team is they never let the moment get to them.”
Sophomore shortstop Destiny McGrath took away three sure base hits over the last three innings in snagging a pair of line drives and a groundball that were all ticketed for the outfield.
The Bears threatened by getting a runner on base in each of the last three innings, only to be shut down by Knopf all three times.
“I preach pitching and defense — I’m old-school softball,” Lizotte said. “I’m very proud of this team and the effort they put in each and every practice for me.
“I spend an hour-plus on defense because we get into these situations and we know it’s going to be a low-scoring game, we’re facing really good pitching.”