WORCESTER — Leicester and Greater New Bedford both started a freshman pitcher in Saturday’s Division 2 softball state championship at Worcester State, and GNB’s Madison Camara outdueled Kya Birtz in leading the Bears to a 5-1 victory.
It’s the program’s first Division 2 crown and the Bears’ first state championship since winning the Division 3 crown in 2014.
GNB coach Mark Collins called it an “unexpected” victory for his young team.
“What paid dividends was the four or five games we had to go through to get here,” Collins said. “They didn’t buckle back then and they didn’t buckle today.”
Camara, making just her fourth varsity start, surrendered only four hits and one unearned run over seven innings. For a pitcher who saw most of her work on the freshman team this season, Camara could never have imagined being the winning pitcher in the state championship game.
“It was just unreal when I first [got called up to varsity],” Camara said. “At first I was just kind of a backup, but then I got a few games. Then being here, it’s completely different then what I expected.”
Camara retired the first nine Leicester batters, coasting through the top of the third inning on just nine pitches.
In the bottom of the third, Greater New Bedford (22-4) did most of its damage offensively, scoring three runs on three hits and two errors.
Senior Averi Soares drove in what proved to be the winning run, lining a single to left to score Alexus Neno. Soares scored a batter later after a stolen base and two wild pitches.
“We didn’t settle down until the fourth inning,” Leicester coach Dave Stanick said. “That cost us in the third, [not] making a couple of really easy plays. You can’t give good teams extra outs. We beat ourselves today.”
Leicester (19-7) scored its only run in the fourth on a triple by Katelyn McKay that drove in Caitlin Kemp.
More photos from the Division 2 state championshipDan Shulman can be reached at email@example.com.