Hale's Walk Off Blast Sends Northwestern To Class M Semifinals
Northwestern's Molly Hale is all smiles and mobbed by teammates after her walk off hit that sent the Highlanders to the Class M semifinals
When they got down, they never gave up and then Molly Hale provided the hit they needed to come out on top.
Hale rocketed a blast to left field to score Sydney Shaffer in the bottom of the seventh inning to lift No. 3 Northwestern to a 3-2 victory over No. 6 Stonington in a Class M quarterfinal matchup on Friday.
With the win the Highlanders move on to the Class M semifinals where they will meet the winner of the quarterfinal matchup between No. Griswold and No. 7 North Branford. The Griswold-North Branford game is scheduled for Saturday. Defending Class M champion Seymour and St. Josephs are set to meet in the other Class M semifinal.
Against Stonington, Northwestern had a 1-0 lead in the early going and saw the Bears even the score on a home run by Abby Flakus in the third and after a two out walk, Flakus scored in the fifth to put Stonington ahead 2-1.
Northwestern tied the game in the bottom of the fifth and it was Hale at the center of things. She led off the frame with a solid single and came around to score later in the inning on a groundout by freshman third baseman Jana Sanden. Both teams went in order in the sixth and Northwestern pitcher Kate Matava worked around a two out single by Flakus in the top of the seventh to give the Highlanders a chance to win it in the home half of the inning.
Sydney Shaffer led off the seventh with a single to right that got up in the wind and the sun and dropped in front of the Stonington right fielder. Shaffer advanced to second on a nice sac bunt by Katie Wald and then scooted to third on a ball in the dirt from pitcher Trinity Lennon during Hale's at bat.
With just one out a fly ball would win the game but Hale didn't leave anything to chance, blasting a shot over the left fielders head, easily plating Shaffer with the winning run and sending the Highlanders to the semifinals.
"I just wanted to get a hit, put the bat on the ball and I knew if I could, we would win the game," Hale said. "When I got the hit, it was awesome. Running down to first and my teammates coming out to celebrate, it was great, I was so excited."
It was an exciting end to en exciting and pretty well played game as both Matava and Lennon pitched well and both defenses made plays to keep their team in the game. At one point Stonington turned a double play in three consecutive innings, including two where Bears second baseman Collette Dreher tagged a Highlanders runner and threw to first. Northwestern also left the bases loaded in the fourth, an inning where they had two hits, drew two walks but failed to score.
However, as they have all season, the Highlanders just kept battling and now find themselves a game away from playing for a state title.
"These kids, they just don't ever get down and they never quit," Northwestern coach Stacey Zematis said. "They have been this way all season. They come to play and keep coming and just never give up."