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Regina scores early, holds on to beat Cabrini, win third straight Catholic League A-B tournament title

By: Matthew B. Mowery, May 20, 2019, 11:50 pm

DETROIT — Nobody thought three would be enough.

Turns out three was just perfect.

The Warren Regina Saddlelites jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning of Monday’s Catholic League A-B championship at University of Detroit Mercy, and made it stand up, holding on to beat Allen Park Cabrini, 3-2, and capture their third straight CHSL championship.

“It’s a nice, sweet victory. Let me tell you,” said Regina coach Diane Laffey, the state’s all-time wins leader in softball, who just clicked past a milestone over the weekend, recording win No. 1,200. “I said 1,201 is even nicer than 1,200 right now.”

Maybe the only person in Buysse Park who wasn’t into all the numerology, and didn’t want a No. 3 to come up was senior starter Marisa Muglia, the starting pitcher for Regina (19-9). 

“She never gives up. She just battles. She never gives up, she’ll battle in the clutch,” Laffey said. “She doesn’t like to lose. She had the two losses, so she didn’t want to lose to them again.”

Muglia was in the circle for the two losses — by scores of 3-2 and 4-3 — to the Monarchs (21-4) in the regular season. She responded with a three-hitter on Monday, striking out 10, in the process earning her third time as the pitcher of record in a Regina win in the league title contest.

“This one (is sweeter). This one, definitely,” said Muglia, who beat Farmington Hills Mercy in each of the last two CHSL A-B championship games. “It was because I had already lost to them two times this year, and then coming back — especially my senior year — ending it on a good note, made it so much better.”

The Saddlelites started on a good note in Monday’s game — intentionally so — staking Muglia to a 3-0 lead before she ever went out to the circle. 

“We wanted jump on them early, because she (Cabrini pitcher Mackenzie Noah) generally gets stronger as the game goes on,” Laffey said. “We wanted to — I didn’t know if it was going to be the first inning or not.”

It was.

Jacqueline Jozefczyk led off with a single, stole second and scored on a double by Leah Munson. A Muglia single put runners at the corners, then Abby Hornberger made it a 3-0 game with a two-run double.

“Going out on the mound in first inning, I had a lot of confidence,” Muglia said. “I just wanted to go out there and do my stuff. I’d give everything for my team.” 

She may have been confident, but her coach wasn’t entirely certain that a three-run lead would hold up, considering how well the Monarchs, led by the Vallimont sisters — junior Michaleigh and freshman Lillian — can swing the bat.

“I didn’t think three was going to hold up. I really didn’t. I was afraid three wouldn’t be enough, because they can hit. We definitely took advantage of the hits in the first inning, it just — fortunately, it held up,” Laffey said. “We didn’t want to let the two sisters beat us. They’re outstanding players, but we were not going to pitch to that third batter, if someone was in scoring position. We were not going to do it.”

Laffey ordered an intentional walk of Lillian Vallimont — the third batter in Cabrini’s order — in the first inning, putting runners at the corners. The freshman drew an unintentional — but careful pitching, nonetheless — walk in the third. 

“Diane took the bat out of Lillian’s hands, initially, and Lillian just wasn’t able to make good on any of the other ones,” Cabrini coach Debbie Norman said. “Muglia did a nice job of keeping her off-balance.”

The Monarchs’ only rally came in the fourth, when Noah led off with a home run. Caleigh Muglia followed with a walk, and scored on a double by Madison Beurkle to make it a one-run game. 

“They have very tough hitters in their lineup, and I got in a little trouble in the fourth inning, and I just had to bear down, and start going back to what working,” Marisa Muglia said, noting that her change-up was spot-on, and her screwball was working, as well. “I didn’t throw a fastball all game. … They’re a tough team, and I just stuck to what was working for me, and it ended up for the best.”

After the fourth-inning blip, the Regina senior sat down the remaining nine batters of the game in order to close out the win.

“Well, it hurts. It always hurts. We had chances. We had runners on base. We just didn’t get the bat on the ball when we had runners on base,” Norman said. “You need to take advantage of those in these kind of situations. You’re playing a very well-seasoned, experienced team. So hopefully this will be a great experience for our kids to jump off on, as we head into the state tournament.”