A two-pitcher effort on Friday led the second-seeded Trumbull High softball team past visiting and 10th-seeded Newtown, 3-1, in the Class LL state tournament quarterfinals.
With the triumph, the Eagles moved to within two wins of their second consecutive state title.
Trumbull (21-1) will take on No. 3 Cheshire (21-1) in the semifinal round on Monday at 7 p.m. at West Haven High.
Cheshire defeated sixth-seeded Norwich Free Academy, 7-6.
Freshman pitcher Mackenzie Bruggeman started and worked into the sixth.
Sophomore Emily Gell, battling a stress fractured ankle, closed the door after the Nighthawks threatened to tie the score.
With a run in, and base runners on first and second with one out in the sixth, Gell got a ground out to third and a pop to short to escape, then silenced the upset-hungry Nighthawks with a perfect, five-pitch seventh.
“I think you’ve got to talk about the guts of my two pitchers,” said Trumbull coach Jacqui Sheftz, noting how impressive it is for a freshman to help carry a team to the state semis and for her regular top starter to come in and pitch despite an injury.
The Nighthawks (17-6) loaded the bases with no outs, on a two walks sandwiching a hit, and Bruggeman got a force out at third on a ground ball that scored a run.
“Mackenzie gave us everything she could. I just felt we should give Newtown a different look at that time and let the chips fall where they may,” Sheftz said.
The Eagles plated single runs in the third, fourth and fifth.
Trumbull broke the ice when Ava Dunn tripled and came home on a failed squeeze play when the Nighthawks didn’t execute a rundown.
After a pair of walks, Bruggeman helped her own cause with an opposite-field run-producing single to make it 2-0 an inning later.
Destefano reached on an infield hit to drive in a run, after Julia Huzi and Alexa Adinolfi set the table by putting runners on the corners with singles in the fifth.
The Nighthawks had their chances, including in the fourth when a single and walk placed the potential tying and go-ahead runners aboard at the time.
Newtown had another single and walk in the fifth.
A sparkling diving play by shortstop Huzi, diving to her right and throwing to first for an out, helped thwart Newtown’s rally.
“She made some unbelievable plays, and my third baseman, Delilha Destefano, made some unbelievable plays,” Sheftz said.
“Just the fact my team was able to make the amazing plays they made, it helped me a lot,” Bruggeman said.
Gell’s leg was in a cast throughout the day, and Sheftz said she did some exercises to warm up and pitch in. When Gell’s turn to bat came up in the sixth, Sheftz gave her some words of caution, then told her not to run on a ground ball that was clearly going for an out.
“It feels great,” Gell said of doing her part. “I wouldn’t be able to do it without my team. They make the plays and it makes my job easier and a lot more stress free.”