East Boston residents Serena Gilbride and Alexandra Santostefano had been part of successful Austin Prep softball teams the last three years, having played in the state championship game two of the last three years. Now in their senior seasons, the local girls made sure to leave their own mark on the program, helping to lead the school to its first ever state title.
Both girls enjoyed strong regular seasons, with Santostefano batting second and providing several timely hits, while playing solid defensively in the outfield. Gilbride, with a 23-2 record, started every game on the mound while also providing game winning hits vs Division one contenders Dracut and Danvers.
Austin Prep was ranked number one and given the top seed in the recent MIAA playoffs, and the girls were instrumental in the schools playoff March to the title. In the Division North championship game vs. St. Mary’s at a packed Martin Field in Lowell, when Santostefano’s first inning single gave Austin an early 1-0 lead, it appeared like Gilbride would make the run stand up for the victory, holding the potent St. Mary’s offense in check for four innings. After St. Mary’s tied the game in the fifth inning, Gilbride retired the next 11 batters into extra innings, setting the stage for Santostefano’s game-winning 8th inning double, which plated the winning run.
Traveling down to Taunton to face Case in the state semi finals, Gilbride, after being hit on the leg by a line drive, battled through the injury to help Austin to its 20th straight victory and a birth in the state championship game. Santostefano’s incredible catch in right field and subsequent throw was the key, leading to game-ending double-play.
Saturday’s state championship game played before a packed house at Worcester State University, had Austin Prep facing a familiar foe, the Turner Falls team that had beaten them in two previous state title games. The local Austin seniors made sure that this time their school would be wearing the crown with strong performances. Gilbride threw seven innings of six hit shutout ball, while Santostefano was huge in the outfield and at the plate, leading the Cougars from Austin Prep to a 3-0 victory and their first ever state title, with the girls creating their own legacy not only at the school but as East Boston residents who have won a state title.
Austin Prep also provides another East Boston connection, as they are coached by Frank Sorrenti and Michelle Brewer, the latter the niece of longtime Dom Savio football coach and EB legend Bill Maradei.
Sorrenti couldn’t say enough about the local players, “These girls have been incredible and the program is lucky to have them. Serena is just unreal. She’s one of the rocks of the team. She’s taken her game to another level, always keeping hitters off balance with pinpoint control, movement, and change of speeds. Serena has a mental toughness that’s rarely seen at the high school level, and is always so poised on the mound. I’m not sure where we’d be without her.” Regarding Santostefano, the coach continued the praise, “This season has been Alex’s best. Defensively, her versatility allows the coaching staff to use her in a variety of positions. She’s always reliable at the plate, and her bat really came alive in the playoffs with so many timely hits, none bigger than her game winner vs St. Mary’s in the North Division Finals. Both girls are a huge part of our success and will be missed.”
Santostefano and Gilbride have been playing together on teams for years, and the significance of winning a state championship as East Boston residents is not lost on them. “As a team we worked extremely hard to accomplish what we wanted to after losing to Turners Falls twice in this same game. This was an unforgettable season with the best group of girls I’ve ever played with,” said Santostefano. While Gilbride added, “I’m extremely grateful that I got to spend my last season with such an amazing group of girls. Winning the state championship for the first time is a moment I’ll never forget. It means even more that we shutout Turners Falls. I’m so proud of everything we’ve accomplished this season.“
It truly is an unforgettable moment for two local student-athletes and one that the East Boston community can be proud of.