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Raiders softball loses a heartbreaker on Holy Cross walk-off in NVL semi's.

POSTED May 24, 2016
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

NAUGATUCK: Oh, the cruelness of the curve ball that didn’t break.

After a herculean effort to even be standing on the mound after taking a Sarah Lawton fastball off her right calf, Torrington standout Ali DuBois wishes she could have that one pitch back.

The Holy Cross Crusaders are moving on to the Naugatuck Valley League Tournament finals after getting a two-run, walk-off home run from catcher Aubrey Defoe with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.

Cross (the No. 2 seed) will take on No. 1 Seymour on Wednesday night at six for the title after the Wildcats ran over Oxford by a 9-0 final behind 17 strikeouts from Raeanne Geffert in the second game Monday night.

“That last pitch was were any batter would want it,” Defoe said. “Coach Dwyer (Megan) had a few words with me right before I came up and she had confidence in me.”

DuBois gets huge kudos for getting back on the mound after getting hit leading off the second inning, an inning that saw the No. 3 ranked Raiders score three times off Lawton.

After being hit, DuBois went behind the visitor’s dugout as her calf swelled up in a big way.

The gutsy junior did manage to collect herself, limp back out to the mound and strike out five of the next six batters she faced.

“She plays with her heart,” Torrington coach Maryanne Musselman said. “She went out there and had a great showing.”

Any time the likes of DuBois and Lawton are dealing in a big game setting, everything is magnified, every play that much more important and in that second inning, the Raiders did an awful lot of things right to take the lead.

Ashley Dowd ran for DuBois and was sacrificed to second on a well-placed bunt by Taylor Rogers to put a runner in scoring position with one out.

Carissa Carbone followed with a terrific bunt of her own that went for a base hit and Torrington was in business with two on with just one out.

Up came Amanda Thiel, who had been punishing the ball coming in and continued the trend with a long double to right center that went all the way to the wall as two runs scored.

Quality small ball continued when catcher Ciera McGowen pushed a bunt into no-man’s land between the pitcher’s mound and second base for a hit while Thiel hustled all the way home from second for a 3-0 lead.

Three runs in a NVL semi-final?

Always seems like it may be enough but the Crusaders didn’t win the Class S title a year ago by laying down when they were down and got two back in the top of the fourth, with a little help from the Raiders.

Hannah Brown led off with her team’s first hit of the game, a single up the middle which was followed by a walk to her sister, Allie Brown.

Lawton moved both runners up with a groundout to second, as did Alex Lombardo but the second ground out plated the Crusaders first run as Hannah Brown scored and Allie Brown moved to third.

Getting out of this spot with just one run scored would have been huge for the Raiders but a DuBois wild pitch to the back stop brought in the second run.

Meanwhile, Lawton was not giving up much of anything after the tough second inning, retiring 11 in a row after the McGowen bunt single.

The Raiders might have gotten something going in the top of the sixth when Nina Julian reached on a walk and was sacrificed to second by Lauren Jamieson but rounded the bag too strong and was caught off the bag and eventually thrown out at third.

A missed opportunity to get another run, something you never like to see in a big game but with the way DuBois was dealing, it seemed to be a moot point.

The hard throwing right hander was dealing, severely bruised calf and all and would finish the game with 13 strikeouts but turns out she needed one more.

The bottom of the seventh started well enough for the visiting team as the first two Crusaders went down quickly but designated player Nicole Striekauskas got a hold of a Dubois pitch and sent it deep to right center for a two-out double.

After that conversation with her coach, Defoe took that curve ball that didn’t break and launched it over the left center field fence for the game winner.

The fact that Torrington was still battling at this point was a credit to their pitcher, who could not have been blamed if she had taken a seat but not their junior standout.

“There was no doubt in Ali’s mind that she was going back out there,” Musselman said. “As long as they could stretch it out, she was going to continue.”

Torrington will get a few extra days to rest until the State Tournament rankings come out on Friday and play starts up again next week.

They certainly wanted to have another crack at the Geffert and the Wildcats but perhaps letting their ace mend a bit might be just as well.

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