DETROIT — The third time is a charm for Maris Muglia.
It mattered not that Allen Park Cabrini beat her twice “badly,” she said, during the regular season.
On the big stage — with the prize of a CHSL girls A-B softball championship on the line — she transforms into a magical force as was the case Monday afternoon at Detroit Mercy’s Buysee Ballpark.
Her Warren Regina teammates staked her to a three-run lead in the first inning.
However, that was all the cushion they provided Muglia to work with. The Monarchs’ sophomore Mackenzie Noah mesmerized Regina’s batting order once she recovered from her shaky beginning.
Cabrini almost shattered the spell in the fourth inning with a pair of runs and had the tying run on second base. But that was the closest the Monarchs would get to home plate.
Muglia composed herself to get the final two outs and then went on to retire the next nine batters in a row for a 3-2 victory. She allowed three hits and struck out 10.
It was Regina’s third consecutive A-B championship, and Muglia was the winning pitcher in each game.
“I tried to keep the ball down.” Muglia said. “I struggled in recent games. Cabrini had beat me badly twice. My curve, change-up and screwball were working really well. This is the best game I’ve pitched all season.”
Jacqueline Jozefczyk singled sharply to left field to lead off the Saddlelites’ first inning. She scooted to second base on a passed ball, and raced home on a single by Leah Munson. Muglia followed with a hit to right field, and both scored on Abby Hornberger’s double.
Cabrini coach Debbie Norman explained later, “Mac was having trouble feeling the seams on the ball. That’s trouble for a softball pitcher.” Noah settled down to scatter four hits the rest of the way.
Regina loaded the bases in the fourth inning on a single and two walks. In the mix of all of that, Noah struck out three batters to end the threat.
Ironically, in the bottom of the same inning, Cabrini mounted its comeback attempt. Noah initiated it with a towering home run over the left-center fence. Caleigh Muglia (Maris’s cousin) walked, then scored on a double by Madison Buerkle.
That’s when Muglia upped her resolve, forcing Emma DelCotto on a bounce-back grounder and inducing Michaleigh Vallimont to swing and miss a wicked change-up for strike three.
Critical to Muglia’s success was her ability to essentially pull the plug on the power of the slugging Vallimont sisters — Michaleigh, a junior, and freshman Lillian. Each had nine home runs coming into the game. Together, they walked three times, and were hitless in four other at-bats.
Regina third baseman Kiley Dulapa made a terrific play in Cabrini’s last at-bat, scooping Ella Nowc’s bunt and throwing her out at first by half a step to prevent the Monarchs’ getting the tying run on base.
Dulapa also fielded Michaleigh Vallimont’s ground ball to end the game.
The game featured a pair of CHSL Hall of Fame coaches.
Regina’s record of 19-9 so far this spring raises Diane Laffey’s best-in-Michigan victory total to 1,201, achieved since 1963 and including six state champions and 14 CHSL titles.
“I’ve been blessed with some great players,” Laffey said. “I’m just along for the ride.”
Norman’s wins amount to 639 updated with Cabrini’s 21-4 record. She coached four years at Allen Park High (1981-1985) and, since 2000, at Cabrini, where she’s won two state titles and six CHSL crowns.
“I have a lot of respect for her,” Norman said about Laffey.