Coe-Brown softball defeats unbeaten Kingswood to repeat as Division II champions

By DAN ATTORRI

Monitor staff

Published: 06-11-2023 11:34 AM

PLYMOUTH – Championship game days are special, but Courtney Thomas prepared like it was any other. Her batting stance was a little off and she worked on some tee drills. It was only a matter of hours before that hard work paid off.

Thomas smashed a towering three-run homer over the left field fence in the fifth inning and fellow senior captain Madison DeCota was sharp in the circle and at the plate as the No. 2 Coe-Brown Northwood Academy Bears (16-3) defended their Division II softball title, handing the No. 1 Kingswood Knights (18-1) their first, and only, loss of the season with a 5-1 victory in Saturday’s championship game at Plymouth State University’s D&M Field.

Facing an undefeated team boasting the D-II  Pitcher of the Year, Morgyn Stevens, and D-II Coach of the Year, Mike Shaw, Coe-Brown could technically be considered the underdogs, but the Bears displayed an energy, confidence and poise befitting two-time, back-to-back champions.

In just the second at-bat of the game, Coe-Brown sophomore Haile Comeau, staring down the barrel of a full count and the arm of the division’s best pitcher, confidently let a ball go high and outside, drawing the walk.

It was a small play, but it sparked a game-changing rally, with DeCota (2-for-4) following up with a single and junior Annie Jerome hitting a two-run single two batters later to give the Bears a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning.

Just enough of a head start to get into Kingswood’s head. It also gave DeCota some breathing room to work.

“We came out early from the start, got some runs on the board and it made me feel a lot more comfortable in the circle,” DeCota said. “(It helped us) keep our energy up and focus on our game.”

“It’s always the game plan, score early and score a lot, but that raised up our energy a little bit and kept them down a little bit,” Coe-Brown head coach Dave Allis added. “When they’re energetic, they’re hard to stop.” 

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DeCota pitched a complete game, allowing just one run, three hits and four walks, while striking out six over seven innings.

“Pretty much everything was working, but (the umpire) was giving neither (team) that high strike,” Allis said. “Her best pitch is a rise ball. He wasn’t giving her the rise ball, so we had to readjust and had to go to some changeup work. But everything she does is pretty much perfect. Every step she takes at practice is perfect. Everything she does is 110%. I’ve been coaching for 23 years. She might be the best kid I’ve ever coached. She’s that good.”

Kingswood’s Carley Johnson hit a leadoff double in the fourth and Avery Gregory (1-for-3, double) put the ball in play to score Johnson and put the Knights on the board, but that was as close as Kingswood would get.

Thomas’ home run in the top half of the fifth scored senior Emma Broadstone (0-for-2, two walks) and Comeau (1-for-3, walk) extended the lead to 5-1.

“Just today, she was doing tee work and working on staying square and staying level,” Allis said. “She kind of had been losing her upper side. So she worked on staying square today. That pitch she hit was a letter high and it was gone right off the bat. She’s so powerful, when she hits the ball it drives.”

In the bottom half of the frame, DeCota walked back-to-back batters with two outs in the fifth inning, and a wild pitch put both runners in scoring position, but Comeau made a nice catch in right field to get her team out of the jam. 

Both teams played error-free defense.

Stevens also pitched all seven innings, allowing six hits and four walks, striking out five.

Sophomore Bella Pelletier and freshman Kylie Bieniek had singles for Coe-Brown.

Handling the pressure of championship games and mentally preparing for big moments isn’t new for CBNA. In addition to playing in back-to-back softball championships, many of the Bears played on the varsity volleyball team that also won back-to-back crowns.

“Being in bigger games helps you prepare for big games,” Allis said. “That really helped us. With our culture at Coe-Brown, we’re fortunate to have had a lot of success, a lot of great girls, a great program. They worked their butts off. All that hard work that they put in really paid off. But definitely being here (before) helps.”

Coe-Brown’s five seniors – Broadstone, DeCota, Thomas, Hailey Pruett and Audrey Perron – were a big part of that culture.

“We lose some great kids, these five seniors,” Allis said. “They’ve been working hard the whole time. They’re energetic, they’re positive. They work their butts off. And they’re great kids. They’re fun to be around.”

The pitcher and catcher combo of DeCota and Thomas will be moving on to Norwich University together. But they can always relish that their final game in the Coe-Brown red gave them yet another title.

If you ask Thomas, “It’s an unreal feeling for sure.”

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