Greenwich High softball is simply en fuego this season

Greenwich High School catcher Erin Ferguson blocks the plate and applies the tag on the Trumbull High School runner during the Mother's Day game at THS. — John Ferris Robben photo

Greenwich High School catcher Erin Ferguson blocks the plate and applies the tag on the Trumbull High School runner during the Mother’s Day game at THS. — John Ferris Robben photo

When head coach Mary Beth Fratello was talking about the Greenwich High School softball team getting into this year’s Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference playoffs, she was hoping her team would improve enough from last year’s success and grab one of the final slots in this year’s conference postseason.

Although the Cardinals advanced from the first round of the CIAC class LL tournament last year for the first time in nearly a decade, Big Red was mere inches away from also qualifying for the FCIAC tournament for the first time in a while.

This year Fratello had her sights set on competing in the conference tournament and so did the Lady Cardinals. However, no one expected what’s currently transpiring to take place.

“It’s nice right now because Greenwich has always been the joke of the teams,” GHS senior pitcher Alison Kach said. “Teams came in here and expected to win. Now they are getting ready to play us and they are thinking that it’s one of their big games on their schedule. Teams are starting to fear us and it’s a great feeling to be on top.”

As of press time, Greenwich High School has one more game to play in the regular season, a game against a Danbury High School team fighting to get into the conference tournament. After beating Trumbull High on Sunday 6-4 in 11 innings and blowing out Bassick High School on Monday, Big Red netted an overall record of 14-4 and a conference record of 13-3.

With Monday’s 27-0 beating of the Lions on Senior Day, Greenwich officially punched its ticket to the FCIAC tournament, which gets under way next week. As of press time, Greenwich was tied with Darien and Stamford for third in the conference; however, Big Red has the tiebreaker against Stamford, courtesy of Greenwich’s 7-5 victory over the Black Knights back on April 10.

Yesterday, Greenwich hosted New Canaan High School in the team’s last regular season home game. Results were unavailable at press time.

“I know that we are doing well,” Fratello said. “I guess on Friday after our Danbury game, some one is going to contact me and tell me where we are playing next week. It would be great if we could get a game here at Greenwich. I honestly don’t care where we play in that FCIAC tournament. They could tell me that we will be going to North Carolina to play and I would gladly get on the bus and travel down there. We just need to worry about ourselves and not about what other teams do. I want to win as many games as we can so we could control our own destiny.”

One of the key themes throughout the season has been Greenwich’s positive attitude.

Just look at Friday’s game against Trumbull High School. After Big Red knotted the game at 4-4, the Eagles were threatening and had runners in scoring position with no outs. Instead of panicking, GHS settled down and netted a dramatic triple play to end the inning.

“It’s just really exciting to be a part of a record-breaking team at Greenwich High,” shortstop Rebecca Decarlo said. “We’ve accomplished so much this season and over the past few years no one has really had that fight to come back in games. With this team we don’t stop. If we are down five or up, we keep fighting, and we are doing that really well this season.”

Greenwich stayed strong and battled Trumbull tough for the rest of the game.

“We are doing a great job and have that never-say-die attitude,” Fratello said. “We are down a couple of runs or we are going through some trouble and it doesn’t faze us. When runners are on base or when there is a chance for the opposition to score, we buckle down and make the plays. It doesn’t matter what the score is. We come back and battle.”

Against the Golden Eagles, Decarlo came up huge. Not only did she finish the game going 4-for-6 with two runs batted in, but she also tied the game at 4-4 with a base hit late in the game.

Both defensively at shortstop and in the batter’s box, Decarlo has been a key piece in Big Red’s success.

“She always seems to come up in those clutch situations and delivers,” Fratello said. “Like I tell her whenever she’s up at the plate, I don’t want home runs. I just want base hits and we’ll take it from there. She seems to deliver every time.”

For Decarlo, it’s all about staying calm and collected, both at the plate and while patrolling short.

“If you think that you need this big hit or need to make a big play, it’s not going to happen,” Decarlo said. “You need to stay relaxed and think that no one is on base and it’s 0-0.”

In addition to Decarlo’s performance at the plate, first baseman Ebba Mark, a senior captain, went 2-for-6 with one RBI. GHS catcher Erin Ferguson contributed by going 1-for-5 with one RBI.

Just as she’s done more times than Fratello can count, GHS starting pitcher Kach was light’s out. In addition to going 1-for-5 with one run batted in against Trumbull, she pitched all 11 innings and netted six strikeouts while walking only two batters.

“We mix really well together and have been working really hard as a team,” Kach said. “We worked really hard in the offseason and it shows by the way we are playing this year. We come to practice every day so we can get better.”

One of the reasons Greenwich softball has made a return to the top of the league and the state has been the pitching from Kach, who has been stellar throughout the season. Fratello said her pitcher is successful because of how confident she is on the pitcher’s mound, whether it’s because of her repertoire of pitches or because of the team backing her up.

“She’s been phenomenal this year,” Fratello said. “When she gets in those jams, she buckles down and gets a strikeout, an easy groundout or a key pop-up to end the inning. There’s no backing down for her. She knows that the infield and outfield behind her will back her up, and that makes her more confident of a pitcher.”

“In the offseason, I worked on getting more movement on the pitches and working on my whole motion overall,” Kach said. “I’ve been able to get that together, and my pitches are definitely moving more than they did last year. I also have a really good connection with my catcher. She’s been calling the pitches really well.”

For Kach, having most of the roster playing for the Lady Cardinals for at least two years has been a huge help in building chemistry and determining how to beat teams in the conference.

“We know what we are doing,” Kach said. “Our confidence level is sky high right now. We’ve been playing together for a while now and know what our skill level is. We know we are as good as those teams that are the big teams in the FCIAC, and now we are coming out and beating those teams.”

Helping Kach has been the Lady Cards’ defense, which has been stellar throughout most of the season.

Leading the way for the infield has been Mark at first. Fratello said that if there is a tough spot while in the field and the opposition is pressuring, Mark brings in the defense to chat with Kach and joins the GHS pitcher in speaking up to lead the way.

In addition to Mark and Kach, sophomore Colleen Bennett has been strong at second, while Decarlo has patrolled short. At the hot corner, Greenwich has Kaitlyn Gowans. Kach’s battery mate has been Ferguson.

“They come to practice every day and they work hard,” Fratello said. “There are things we do every day with their agility, footwork and simple things. It seems repetitive, but I just explain to them that they have to do it every day if we want to win. They don’t slack off, and they give it 100% every day.”

At the beginning of the season, the Greenwich High outfield was quite the question mark, as Big Red was inexperienced. However, with the postseason looming, Fratello said that the outfield isn’t a weakness any more.

Leading the way has been Madison Burhans at center, Erin White in left field and Jenn Ambrogio at right.

“We had a bad game in the outfield during our St. Joe’s game and we came back from that game and they have played phenomenal,” Fratello said. “They make better plays and are catching everything, making line drive grabs, and are tracking down all the balls. They aren’t letting anything drop.”

Before the season kicked off, Greenwich had its eyes set on making an FCIAC playoff run and was also trying to keep up with some of the elite teams in the conference. Not only has Big Red kept up, but it has beaten a plethora of talent in the conference.

In addition to upending Trumbull, Staples 2-1 and Ridgefield 15-7, the team has also beaten Westhill 11-9 and Stamford 7-5 and has been blown out only once this season.

“Winning some of the those games are just big confidence boosters for us,” Fratello said. “We were close to Ludlowe and Darien, and there was only one game where we weren’t really in. We have a lot of confidence in each other. When one girls gets a hit, there’s always someone that follows it.”

No matter what happens the rest of the season, Greenwich has all but assured itself of a home game in the upcoming Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference class LL tournament.

“That would be great,” Fratello said. “I would rather play here than get on a bus and travel in that 100-degree weather like we did last year playing Conard. But again, as long as we are in the tournament, I don’t care where we play.”

Win or lose, Fratello has nothing but positives to say about her Lady Cardinals.

“I am so proud of these girls,” Fratello said. “They are just great, and I’m so happy that they are succeeding, because they come in and work hard. It’s all paying off, and winning those big games and being in the position we are currently in is great.”

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