Raiders softball going to the
WEST HAVEN: The mission to get back to this point and then some began the day last year that they dropped their semi-final game to Fitch by a 3-0 final.
Now, the Torrington softball team is one win away from taking home the first State Championship of any kind in girls’ sports at the high school, since girls began playing organized sports back in 1974.
A win away from erasing any thought of not being able to win the big ones that counted after disposing of Pomperaug by a 5-1 final behind the dominant pitching of Ali DuBois (5 hits, 13 K’s) and a three RBI night by senior Mariah Herzcog.
The former is something Raider fans are used to. DuBois being, well, DuBois, the best pitcher in Class L this year. Just ask the Panthers, who saw their first eight hitters go down on strikes before hitting a ball forward in fair territory.
The latter, Herzcog, is not a name that got a lot of ink this year but the senior second baseman could not have picked a better time to break out of a self-described slump.
Herzcog drove in the game’s first run in the top of the second when she singled over first with two outs and the bases loaded, scoring Amanda Thiel, who had singled two batters earlier.
With the way DuBois began the game with those eight straight strike outs, that may have well been 10 with a fastball that was popping and a change-up that was fooling Panthers hitters.
Herzcog sealed the game for the Raiders with a long double that landed near the base of the right field fence, driving in the last two runs of a four run seventh inning that sent the Torrington fan base into a frenzy.
DuBois, who has the determination of a bulldog, was not in any serious trouble until the bottom of the sixth when, with her team clinging to a 1-0 lead (the Raiders left 10 on base), Pomperaug put the first two runners on with a walk and single.
A sacrifice put the tying run on third with one out but consecutive bunt attempts by the No 1 seed, trying to manufacture something against the DuBois power, came up empty.
Torrington played a flawless game in the field, keeping their heads in situations that may have gotten away from them in the past.
Raider catcher, Alyssa Dowd saved the tying run from scoring in the bottom of the fifth when she reached far above her head to keep an errant DuBois pitch from going to the backstop.
In the sixth inning jam, Thiel charged from first on a bunt attempt, held the runner at third and still got the runner at first.
On the next play, Carissa Carbone, who would leave in the seventh with what looked like a right ankle sprain, fielded a push bunt cleanly and made the throw to first to end the threat.
In the bottom of the fourth, Nina Julian made a potential run saving catch on a long fly ball to right for the third out.
The only concern Torrington head coach Maryann Musselman had as the inning went on was that her team was leaving an awful lot of runners on base.
“We were hitting the ball hard,” Musselman said. “But it was always at somebody. We needed to keep the pressure up and come through in one of those spots and we eventually did.”
In the top of the seventh, took full advantage of a pair of Pomperaug errors that led to a pair of runs before the Herzcog two-run double.
With one out and a runner on first, DuBois hit a hot shot to second that went through the Panthers second baseman’s legs for an error that put runners on second and third with one out.
Carbone had reached on a fielder’s choice and motored to third on the two-base error.
Thiel then hit a rope that was grabbed by the Panthers second baseman, forcing both runners to scramble back to their respective bag.
It was on that play that Carbone appeared to go back hard into third and rolled her ankle.
After several minutes on the ground, Carbone got back up and looked as though she was going to stay in the game but Musselman pinch ran sophomore Alexa Reynolds and the move paid off with Lauren Jamieson at the plate.
Pomperaug starter, Ashley Antonazzo uncorked a wild pitch that sailed over her catcher’s head allowing Reynolds to come in with the game’s second run.
Carbone may not have been able to score on the play with her bad ankle so the move worked out.
Up 5-0, the Raiders and DuBois just needed three outs and although the top seed managed to break through with a run, DuBois struck out the side, making it another “Baker’s Dozen” strike out night for the Torrington.
As a result, the Raiders will play in a game that will be new to all of them but not overwhelming to any of them.
This is a team that has been together since grammar school and has known championships at different levels along the way.
It’s a senior laden team whose only mission this year started after a season ending loss a game too early a year ago.
They are no longer just “happy to be here”.
This is a team on a mission.
One more win and history will belong to them forever.