Bears back in Class S title game after 14-4 win over Hale Ray.
Nicole Schaefer and the Thomaston Golden Bears are back in the Class S finals after a 14-4 win over Hale Ray on Wednesday in West Haven. A 10-run fifth inning did the trick.
WEST HAVEN: What just happened?
That’s the question the Hale Ray girls softball team must have been asking themselves as IT happened again.
IT was a thunderous, somewhat out of the blue ten, count ‘em ten-run rally by the Thomaston Golden Bears that turned a 4-3 lead by the visitors into a rock and rolling 14-4 win by the defending Class S State champions who get to defend their title on Saturday.
Thomaston takes on Holy Cross, Saturday at one o’clock for the ultimate prize and if you were looking for a pretty terrific rematch, you got one.
The two teams met earlier this spring with Bears getting the best of the Crusaders that day but to be truthful, it’s going to be a toss-up game, but a great one.
First though to Wednesday night in West Haven, the site of the Bears 2014 miraculous comeback from six runs down to win the title they now look to defend.
The Noises, still one of the coolest nicknames in the state, came in ranked No. 22 with a 10-10 regular season mark but had gotten hot at the right time which is sometimes all it takes at this time of the year.
Hale Ray struck quickly in the top of the first by playing small ball via the bunt. Turns out they were pretty good bunters and they got on the board with a little help from Thomaston.
Centerfielder Cailey Botteon laid down a pretty bunt that she pushed between third and short for a leadoff hit.
Leftfielder Callie Burke put down another bunt, looking to get a runner in scoring position but an errant throw past first by Thomaston starter Morgan Sanson went deep into right field and Botteon came all the way around to score while Burke ended up at third.
The damage in the inning may have been more if not for a heads up play by Bears right fielder Sam Brostek on a diving catch that turned into a double play when it was ruled on appeal that the runner on third had left early and the inning came to an end.
Thomaston would put three on the board in their half of the first, the highlight being a booming triple to center by Sanson and a sacrifice fly by Nicole Schaefer for a 3-1 lead.
Junior Leah Brownwell started for the Noises and while not overpowering, did manage to keep the defending champs off the board over the next two frames while her team found their offense.
After striking out the first batter she faced in the top of the third, Sanson got another K but a passed ball allowed the runner to reach safely.
How often do those kind of things come back to haunt a team and on Wednesday, it did.
A walk, and a pair of two-out double plated three runs and the visitors were back on top by a 4-3 score.
Brownwell would get out of trouble in the bottom of the fourth thanks to a double play on a line drive that turned into two outs and an inning gone.
After the third inning though, Sanson was Sanson. The hard throwing lefty settled down to retire 13 of the final 14 batters she face while her team officially woke up with a vengeance at the plate.
Boy, it started innocently enough. Don’t huge rallies always?
As a matter of fact, the rally got rolling after two were gone in the bottom of the fifth.
Julia Romaniello singled to center with one and moved to second on a nice play by Hale Ray third basemen Emily Traceski who got the out at first off a hard smash by Alexa Milius, who would get her revenge later in the inning.
Two walks loaded the bases. A single by Jensyn Cleveland knotted things at one but, oh, the Bears were just waking up.
Here goes the fast part that had the Noises trying to figure out what had just occurred.
Nina Barone was hit by a pitch. Two runs in the inning. Brostek singles to center, two more runs. That’s four so far for those of you scoring at home. Danielle Genest, who has developed a knack for timely hits, nearly drove a ball out to left center as two more runs crossed the plate.
Two more walks loaded the bases again before Milius (told you she would get her revenge) launched an equally long drive that cleared the bases and left her on second where she would score on Sanson triple that drove in the tenth run of the frame.
It was so fast, it made your head spin.
It’s nothing new for this team and anyone who thinks they can predict what will happen on Saturday when the Bears go for an astounding second straight Class S title (remember, these are some of the same players who won back to back basketball tiles) is talking out of school.
Sure, Sarah Lawton and the Crusaders will present a tough challenge but it’s simply too risky to pick against this team in any sport that involves this group of student/athletes.
“We have just been in this situation a lot,” Genest said, “We just know what we have to do. We have to hit and support each other. There’s never any doubt.”
Head coach Kelly Finlay, in her first full season at the helm, understands she has some tremendous players who simply don’t like to lose.
“They are a great group of girls, on and off the field,” Finlay said, “They come with smiles and laughs to the practices and games and it really helps to settle us down. They’re loose out there and they love to have fun and play.”
One more game for all the marbles.
See you Saturday.