Softball: St. Joseph tops Stamford in nine innings
STAMFORD — If this was a preview of the FCIAC softball playoffs, you better run and get your tickets now.
St. Joseph saw Stamford fight back twice. But the Cadets kept their hopes for an unbeaten season alive Saturday as they earned a 5-2 road triumph in nine innings.
FCIAC East Division leader St. Joseph (12-0 overall, 9-0 league) scored three runs in the top of the ninth to finally vanquish stubborn Stamford.
To its credit, Stamford (8-3, 5-3 FCIAC) had the go-ahead run at the plate and left the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.
“My No. 1 takeaway is our team didn’t cave in under pressure,” said St. Joseph’s veteran coach Jeff Babineau, who earned his 200th career victory last Wednesday. “Stamford High always plays us well. They never hand a game to us. It went extra innings. Stamford did a great job. But our girls just kept fighting.”
Even though, the wind was blowing out at Wrigley Field-gale force Saturday, St. Joseph did most of its damage offensively by playing effective small ball to build runs.
The Cadets led 1-0 in the second as Brittany Mairano doubled and eventually scored on two groundouts to second base.
In the eighth inning, St. Joseph parlayed a walk, a sacrifice and a Stamford error into a 2-1 edge. The Cadets had the bases loaded with one out in the sixth but didn’t cash in.
“I preach to the team about small-ball offense. We have a very good pitcher, so we need to manufacture runs for her,” St. Joseph coach Babineau said. “To their credit, the girls have bought in. We like hitting homers. But small-ball runs can win games.”
Stamford hitters persevered Saturday in the face of a 17-strikeout performance by St. Joseph junior right-hander Payton Doiron.
“Payton has come a very long way in the past two seasons. She has put the work in to improve,” Babineau said. “Her pitch movement today was very good. When the wind blows out this hard, you just have to deal with it.”
Stamford had two-out runners in scoring position in the first, fifth and sixth innings without cashing in.
Then the Black Knights went to the long ball.
With two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the seventh, Stamford senior Brycelin Stalteri clubbed an opposite-field homer to right center field for a 1-1 tie.
After St. Joseph scored in the top of the eighth, Stamford pitcher Kim Saunders aided her own cause with a one-out, opposite-field homer to right center in the bottom of the eighth for 2-2.
Saunders surrendered nine hits to St. Joseph.
Senior designated player Alyssa Noce led off the top of the ninth with a solo homer to right for a 3-2 lead.
“It was a crucial situation. I was looking for a pitch in a particular zone and I got my pitch,” Noce said. “The hit felt good off the bat. But I’m sure the wind helped carry it.”
St. Joseph added two more runs for 5-2. But Stamford wasn’t done yet.
Singles by Sarah Wargo and Stalteri along with a walk to Diana Magarian loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth with two outs.
But Doiron fashioned her 17th strikeout of the game to finally secure the victory and a well-deserved Sunday off for the still-unbeaten Cadets.
“The girls come into our program and play for the St. Joseph on the front of their uniforms. We talk a lot about getting through adversity,” Babineau said. “We understand for every opponent this is the game they have circled on the calendar. And we know that we will see Stamford High again.”
Stamford High showed it is ready for the regular season stretch drive and the postseason.
“I knew it already. But it was great to see our resiliency today,” said Stamford coach Melissa Giordano. “We may get behind in a game but we’re never out of it. We just didn’t get the big hit in early opportunities. I’ve been waiting to see us pull all three facets together in a game. We stepped up to the next level today. My message was we can’t turn back the rest of the season.”
ST. JOSEPH 5, STAMFORD 2 (9)
St. JOSEPH 010 000 013—5 9 0
STAMFORD 000 000 110—2 9 2
Records: St. Joseph 12-0, 9-0 FCIAC. Stamford 8-3, 5-3 FCIAC.
Batteries: SJ—Payton Doiron (W, 17Ks, 3 BB) and Charlee Horton. Stam—Kim Saunders (L, 4Ks, 2 BB) and Amy Covino.