Greenwich High softball blasts West Haven 5-1 in CIAC opener

The Greenwich High School softball team was swinging for the fences in its opening round CIAC class LL playoff game against West Haven. — John Ferris Robben photo

The Greenwich High School softball team was swinging for the fences in its opening round CIAC class LL playoff game against West Haven. — John Ferris Robben photo

The No. 3 seeded Greenwich High School softball team was down early to hard-hitting West Haven High School 1-0 in the opening round of the CIAC class LL tournament.

However that’s when Rebecca DeCarlo and the Big Red defense stepped up its game.

The Lady Cardinals got a homer by senior captain DeCarlo in the bottom of the first and stellar defense throughout the contest to upend the Blue Devils 5-1 earlier today at the GHS softball field.

“It feels good right now,” Greenwich High School softball head coach Mary Beth Fratello said. “It was a nice 5-1 victory and everything came together today. Our defense, offense and pitching was all on today and that makes it fun to coach.”

West Haven started the contest with Sierra Santana reaching base on a single to right and took second on a GHS error. Another single by Kial Watts advanced Santana to third and Santana came around to score when Amber Bonewicz smacked an infield single to short.

Despite trailing early 1-0, Greenwich didn’t let the deficit last long. In the bottom of the first inning, Jen Ambrogio connected on a one-out single to third base. Next up was DeCarlo and took the 2-0 count well over the left field fence for the two-run homer and gave the Cards a 2-1 lead.

GHS starting pitcher Jessie Schelz fires the ball to the plate during Monday's game against West Haven. — John Ferris Robben photo

GHS starting pitcher Jessie Schelz fires the ball to the plate during Monday’s game against West Haven. — John Ferris Robben photo

“She did a great job,” Fratello said. “I actually said to her that I didn’t want a home run. All I wanted was a base hit. She turned on it and I couldn’t be happier for her not to listen to me. She was definitely locked in on that pitch.”

DeCarlo entered Monday afternoon’s game in a little bit of a hitting slump, however that ended with one swing of the bat.

“It felt really good to do that,” DeCarlo said. “I haven’t been hitting that well, but it’s not just about my home run. It’s about the team coming together and getting the win. It was a two-run homer, but we did put up five runs on the board. The energy throughout the game was really high and that helped us get the victory.”

After going down quietly in the second and third innings, Big Red exploded for three key runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. After Madison Burhans reached base on an error to start the frame, another West Haven error during Jessie Schelz’s at bat put runners on first and second with no outs.

A perfectly-placed sacrifice bunt by Dominque Gambino advanced Burhans and Schelz a base. An error by the West Haven pitcher gave Colleen Bennett first base and drove home Burhans.

With two out, Ambrogio stepped up to the plate and drilled a line drive single up the middle that plated Schelz and Bennett and gave Greenwich its 5-1 lead.

“Those runs were huge because we know West Haven is a good team,” Fratello said. “They definitely can hit and they showed us that in the first inning. They came out on fire and took that 1-0 lead. The extra runs that we got gave us some confidence later in the game, plus it helped us relax.”

From there it was Greenwich’s defense that paced the team, as DeCarlo started a nice double play and had a great diving catch. Bennett at second base had several big time catches and Burhans tracked down several key balls in the outfield.

On the mound, Greenwich was paced by Schelz. In seven innings of work, Schelz gave up seven hits and one run while striking out one batter and walking nobody.

“The defense came through on each inning today,” Fratello said. “Rebecca was diving for plays, Colleen was making plays and the outfield was all over the ball. Everybody made the plays and that made this a team effort.”

With the victory, Greenwich upped its record to 18-4 on the season and will play Westhill High School tomorrow afternoon in the CIAC class LL second round. The game will once again be played at Greenwich High.

“It feels incredible to start the tournament on our home field,” DeCarlo said. “It helps a lot because we have our home crowd here and they don’t have to make a journey anywhere in the state of Connecticut. It feels great to win and still have home field in the second round.”

For Fratello and the rest of the Lady Cardinals, taking bus rides for competition in the state tournament has been memorable.

Whether it was when the weather was hot and humid going up to Conard High School or just steaming hot and sunny traveling to Glastonbury High School, the Lady Cardinals are thrilled that they get to play in front of their home fans without any bus rides.

“Having the game at home was really nice,” Fratello said. “Playing in front of your fans is a great feeling. Plus getting on that long bus ride, sitting in traffic, being pressured about time during warm-ups isn’t too much fun. It’s nice to get that game here. It’s nice to win all those games in the regular season to get this reward of playing at home a bunch of playoff games.”

 

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