Win at all costs.
Those words, written in black marker on Claire O’Brien’s forearm, had slightly faded Tuesday after she pitched the two most important games in Sacred Heart softball history.
“When I go to grip the ball, I’ll look at it,” she said of the mantra the Spartans printed on their arms all season. “When I get into jams, we’ll hold it up and point at it so we know to keep our mind in the right place because if we win at all costs and play how we know we can, nobody can beat us.”
They won until there were no games left to win. The Spartans captured the first state championship in program history Tuesday after defeating Nardin Academy, 4-1, in the state CHSAA final at Padavan-Preller Fields in Queens.
With a runner on and two outs in the seventh, O’Brien battled through a 16-pitch at-bat to induce a one-hopper to third. Janae Barracato extended to make the stab and threw to first to Kayla Fitzpatrick for the final out.
“I was like I have to get it,” Barracato said. “And then when I got it, it was probably the best moment that I could have ever asked for.”
Marissa Braito went 3-for-4, including a triple to lead off the game. She scored on a two-out, two-run liner up the middle by Kara Colgan to give Sacred Heart a 2-0 advantage.
“We’ve been wanting this for so long,” Colgan said. “The urge that everybody wanted it, it was in our blood to perform and do well.”
Braito increased the lead to 3-0 in the second when she reached safely on a bunt to score Emma Nidermaier. “We do everything in our power to come out on top,” Braito said.
O’Brien tossed a complete game, allowing six hits, walking one, and striking out nine. The junior pitcher — who Tuesday in the semifinals tossed five shutout innings in a 6-0 win over Cardinal Spellman — escaped two-on, no-out jams in the fifth and sixth innings.
“This is unreal,” she said. “When I pitch, I pitch for my teammates. When they field they field for me. When they hit, they hit for everybody.”
That showed, whether it was Michaela Ernst making a diving basket catch in center, Kelsi McGlone blocking balls behind the plate, Barracato crushing a homer in the semifinals, or Colgan showing poise under pressure at the plate. Each catch, hit, and pitch exemplified the Spartans’ refuse-to-lose mentality.
“Being the first team to do this, everyone else in the future will look up to us and say we want to be like that,” said Fitzpatrick, a co-captain. “Every pitch, every inning, we gave our all. We made sure that we won at all costs.”