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John Stark softball claims first title in program history with victory over Coe-Brown in D-II final

  • John Stark, including Lillian Stogner (10), Izabella Nelson (25) and Sarah Ferguson (6), celebrates their 9-4 win over Coe-Brown in the Division II softball championship game at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester on Saturday, June 9, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • John Stark celebrates their 9-4 win over Coe-Brown in the Division II softball championship game at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester on Saturday, June 9, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • John Stark celebrates their 9-4 win over Coe-Brown in the Division II softball championship game at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester on Saturday, June 9, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Coe-Brown's Abigail Jerome (6) and Katherine Messenger (9) embrace at the end of the Division II softball championship game at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester on Saturday, June 9, 2018. John Stark defeated Coe-Brown, 9-4. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • John Stark defeated Coe-Brown, 9-4, during the Division II softball championship game at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester on Saturday, June 9, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • John Stark's Sarah Ferguson (6) makes it safely to first base as Coe-Brown's Maggie Sylvester (10) fumbles the ball during the Division II softball championship game at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester on Saturday, June 9, 2018. John Stark defeated Coe-Brown, 9-4. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • John Stark's Sydney Nelson (27) is out at first base during the Division II softball championship game at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester on Saturday, June 9, 2018. John Stark defeated Coe-Brown, 9-4. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Coe-Brown's Natalie Harris (14) crosses home plate during the Division II softball championship game at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester on Saturday, June 9, 2018. John Stark defeated Coe-Brown, 9-4. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • John Stark's Brooke Patnode (5) makes a catch for an out during the Division II softball championship game at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester on Saturday, June 9, 2018. John Stark defeated Coe-Brown, 9-4. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Coe-Brown's Drew Stevens (15) throws a pass as John Stark's Sarah Ferguson (6) runs to third during the Division II softball championship game at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester on Saturday, June 9, 2018. John Stark defeated Coe-Brown, 9-4. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • John Stark defeated Coe-Brown, 9-4, during the Division II softball championship game at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester on Saturday, June 9, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Coe-Brown's Autumn Stevens (12) at bat during the Division II softball championship game at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester on Saturday, June 9, 2018. John Stark defeated Coe-Brown, 9-4. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • John Stark defeated Coe-Brown, 9-4, during the Division II softball championship game at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester on Saturday, June 9, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • John Stark's Izabella Nelson (25) winds up a pitch during the Division II softball championship game at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester on Saturday, June 9, 2018. John Stark defeated Coe-Brown, 9-4. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • John Stark defeated Coe-Brown, 9-4, during the Division II softball championship game at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester on Saturday, June 9, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • John Stark defeated Coe-Brown, 9-4, during the Division II softball championship game at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester on Saturday, June 9, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • John Stark celebrates their 9-4 win over Coe-Brown in the Division II softball championship game at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester on Saturday, June 9, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • John Stark's Lillian Stogner (10) makes a hit during the Division II softball championship game at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester on Saturday, June 9, 2018. John Stark defeated Coe-Brown, 9-4. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Sunday, June 10, 2018

HOOKSETT – Seconds after releasing the last pitch, Izabella Nelson was the first one to launch her glove high above the field at Southern New Hampshire University.

On the biggest stage of the season, the John Stark freshman delivered a performance beyond her years. Nelson held No. 8 Coe-Brown hitless through four innings, and backed by six early runs, finished the job with a complete-game effort for the second-seeded Generals in a 9-4 victory over the Bears in Saturday’s Division II softball championship.

“I’ve always looked up to my dad and he’s always told me to take it one pitch at a time,” said Nelson, who surrendered just two hits and struck out nine to help the Generals (18-2) capture their first title in program history. “He always says you can’t win a state championship without staying composed, so he’s really helped me through all that and learning that you have to keep your head in the game until the very last out.”

It was a message Nelson wisely took to heart against the comeback kids from Coe-Brown (14-6), which has proven throughout the tournament that no lead is safe, especially late.

But this time the Bears, who had already knocked out top-seeded Milford in the quarterfinals, ran out of the magic that helped a No. 8 seed become one of the last two teams standing.

“We talk all the time about if you want to be fighters, you’re going to have to take some punches,” Coe-Brown coach Dave Allis said. “So this is a nice punch for them I think, watching the other team pig pile. And then next year, come back, and we’ll be the ones in the pig pile.”

The contest was all Stark from the start. The Generals, showing no signs of nerves, hung a six-run second inning on the Bears and followed it up with a solo run in the third and two more in the fourth. Before Coe-Brown could even settle down, it was staring up at a 9-0 deficit.

“That’s what we’ve been doing all year. We try to put a crooked number up,” Stark coach Gerry Morin said. “So for us to put six up, that’s huge obviously and that was pretty much the ballgame right there.”

With two runners on, sophomore Elizabeth Aubin got the scoring started for Stark with an RBI single to center field. After another run scored on an error, Anna Stenger doubled home Sarah Ferguson, and junior Kali Kolehmainen followed with a clutch two-run single down the first-base line to make it 5-0.

With still nobody out in the inning, Coe-Brown starter Katherine Messenger buckled down, allowing one more run to the cross the plate on a fielder’s choice before finally escaping the jam.

But the damage was done and the Generals had a new mindset.

“It let us kind of play loose and it was just a game of outs,” said Kolehmainen, who finished with three hits. “At that point, we were just trying to get outs and it didn’t matter what the runs were.”

After Ferguson helped cushion the lead with a two-run single in the fourth to make it 9-0, the Generals handed the ball right back to Nelson. Coe-Brown entered the fifth without a hit, and scored its first run without a base knock before Abigail Jerome finally ended the no-no bid with a single that scored a pair.

Asked if she was thinking about a potential no-hitter, Nelson said, “Not really, I kind of just had my head in the game and was looking for the end to get that win.”

Down to their last inning, the Bears scrapped together one final run when Jerome blasted a double into the gap. But there was too much to overcome, even for a team with an offense as its calling card.

“We’ve been aggressive and confident every game we’ve played so I look at every inning like it’s 0-0,” Allis said. “We knew we could do it. We’ve had six or seven come-from-behind wins and a couple walk-offs so I believed in them right up until the last out.”

And when the last out came, Nelson’s glove was long gone, lost in the chaos of celebration for a John Stark team that was about to hoist the championship for the very first time.

“It’s unbelievable,” Kolehmainen said. “We played four really hard teams throughout the playoffs, we couldn’t be happier with this outcome and we’re ready for next year.”

(Jay McAree can be reached at 369-3371, jmcaree@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JayMcAree.)