Softball: Rocky Hill upends St. Joseph in semifinals

Hanna Errico throws out a Rocky Hill runner in the top of the sixth inning. — David G. Whitham photo
Hanna Errico throws out a Rocky Hill runner in the top of the sixth inning. — David G. Whitham photo

The top-seeded St. Joseph softball team saw its hopes of completing its season with a state championship dashed 1-0 by fifth-seeded Rocky Hill in the Class M semifinals at DeLuca Field in Stratford on Monday night.

“To fall short, it’s not a pleasant feeling,” Cadet coach Jeff Babineau said after his club finished 24-2. “It’s tough on the kids. They work very hard, give them a lot of credit, they didn’t give up tonight. They haven’t given up all year.”

St. Joseph’s Kayla Giacobbe and Lauren Blose each singled to open the bottom of the seventh inning off Rocky Hill’s Jess Greenspan. Hanna Errico bunted them up a base. A senior, Greenspan went 1-2 in the count on Courtney Holden before notching her sixth strikeout. She ended the game with a swinging strike three by Hanna Hutchison, who had two of the Cadets’ six hits.

“Coming in we were basically the underdogs,” Greenspan said of her 22-1 team. “The past three years we’ve fallen to the eventual state champions by one run, which is really tough. This is one of the best (defensive) games we’ve played. Sophie (Kurdziel) played an amazing second base. Our outfield, everyone made their plays."

Kurdziel’s spectacular catch from her second base position in shallow right field by the foul line saved the tying run from scoring in the sixth inning.

Nicole Williams had singled with two out, and courtesy runner Trish Bastek was in a full sprint when Allie Petronchak launched her dunker over first base. Kurdziel caught the ball in the webbing of her glove with her back to the plate.

Rocky Hill head coach Tyler Catlin said, “We’ve had a really good defensive season, but I would say that is up there as one of our top plays of the year. That was a real game-changer.”

Rocky Hill scored its run in the top of the second inning.

Greenspan tripled to dead center with one out, and Arianna Genovese squeezed her home with a bunt up the third base line.

“We knew it was going to be a street fight, going up against one of the best teams in the state,” Catlin said. “We know Nicole Williams, what a great season she’s had. She definitely brought it. We knew had to fight for every inch of offense tonight against Nicole. Luckily, Arianna was able to get down a nice bunt to push that run across. That was huge.”

Williams kept the deficit at one, despite three Cadet errors making things more difficult for the senior who struck out 11.

Hutchison led off the first with a single, but was left at second after Melissa Bike’s sacrifice bunt.

The Terriers’ Victoria Spellman reached on an error to open the third, but she too was stranded.

Hutchison and Bike had two-out hits in the fourth, but Greenspan got a comebacker to end the inning.

Williams set down nine straight batters, before Julianne Slavin singled for Rocky Hill’s second hit with one out in the sixth.

She stole second, but a groundout to third and a strikeout left her on third.

Rocky Hill looked to add to its lead in the seventh.

Greenspan singled and an outfield error with one out put two runners aboard.

Errico at second base dove to her right to stop Kelly Quirion’s smash and threw her out at first.

Williams ended the threat with her 11th strikeout.

“They made every play they could make,” Babineau said of Rocky Hill. “That was the difference in the game. That was a phenomenal catch going out..Just didn’t go our way. Give them a lot of credit. She pitched well, they played great defense. That’s what’s going to get you to the championship.”

Rocky Hill will play third-seeded Seymour High, a 10-1 winner over Stonington, for the state title. The Wildcats are 23-1.