LOWELL — — Pitching is the circle of life in high school softball.
And the Lowell High softball team is very much alive and thriving in the state tournament thanks to the energy provided by freshman right-hander Giana LaCedra's dominance in the circle this season.
LaCedra has consistently lifted her level of performance throughout the spring, carrying the Red Raiders' fortunes up with her.
This year's Gatorade Softball Player of the Year for Massachusetts, LaCedra has continued to work her pitching mastery in the postseason.
LaCedra tossed a 1-hit shutout, losing her bid for a perfect game with one out in the seventh, with one walk and 11 strikeouts as Lowell beat Boston Latin, 3-0, at Martin Field Tuesday night in an MIAA Division 1 North Sectional quarterfinal.
"It all starts in the circle," said Lowell coach Bo Durso. "She's unbelivable. I'm glad I have her for four years and nobody else does.
"We give her three runs to work with and we have to feel good about our chances to win. She's just really unbelievable. I asked her, 'If she knew she had a perfect game.' She said, 'She did.' But I sometimes wonder. She just pitches. She did a great job hitting her spots tonight."
Lowell (21-1) will play the winner of Wednesday's Methuen (17-4) at Newton North (18-3) quarterfinal matchup in a Division 1 North semifinal Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Martin Field.
LaCedra was locating her pitches and changing speeds while working both sides of the plate. After retiring the first batter she faced in the seventh on a ground out, Kate McGrath spoiled LaCedra's bid for the perfect game with a clean base hit to center field.
After allowing a walk to put two runners on with one out, LaCedra calmly retired the next two batters to conclude her latest pitching gem.
"I had my great defense behind me and everyone was really energized," said LaCedra, who improved her pitching record to 20-1 for the season.
"It was a good win. It was good to get an early lead. It gives me some comfort and room to work with.
"After last my game, I really worked on hitting all my spots and getting movement on my pitches. I was happy with the way I threw. I just want to help the team win."
Niky Yrrizarry helped spark Lowell's offense. Yrrizarry ripped a pair of triples and scored two runs. Yrrizarry also has a great game defensively at catcher.
"She's a complete athlete," said Durso. "I just wish the whole team had her fire and will to fight. She's a great competitor."
In the bottom of the first, Yrrizarry belted a triple to deep center field and scored on a ground out by Mia Ly.
Lowell upped its lead to 2-0 in the fourth. LaCedra smacked a one-out single to left field. Melodee Pin was inserted as a courtesy runner for LaCedra and she scored on Erin McPhee's single to center field.
"That was a nice base hit up the middle," said Durso. " It was good to see her hit the ball hard."
After Yrrizarry launched her second triple of the game, Ly picked up her second RBI of the game, giving Lowell a 3-0 lead in the fifth.
"Mia is hitting the ball hard," said Durso. "She's back to where she should be."
Meara McPhee had one hit for the Red Raiders.
Christina Panagiotopoulos (center field), Meara McPhee (right field), Erin McPhee (second base), Shyanne Greene (shortstop) and Ly (first base) played well defensively.
"I love it," said LaCedra. "Everyone is so supportive. Everyone is really close. It's been a really great first year. Hopefully, we keep it going."
Follow Carmine Frongillo on Twitter @cwfrongi