Softball St. Joseph defeats Stamford, returns to FCIAC final
FAIRFIELD — St. Joseph took advantage of an added opportunity in the first inning, and then saw its infield play lights out defense on its way to a 6-1 win over Stamford in the FCIAC semifinals at Sacred Heart University’s Pioneer Field on Monday.
Coach Jeff Babineau’s top-seeded Cadets are 21-0 on the season. They will play No. 2 Trumbull or No. 6 Fairfield Warde in the finals on Friday at 5 p.m. at SHU. Trumbull (19-1) and Warde (12-5) were rained out Monday and will play on Tuesday at 5 p.m. back at Sacred Heart.
“We were patient at the plate today, which we weren’t the first time we played them (a 5-2 victory),” Babineau said of his rematch with No. 4 seed Stamford (16-5). “Our mantra is always defense first. I think when they put pressure on, our defense made the plays.”
St. Joseph — the No. 1 team in the GameTimeCT poll — scored three unearned runs in the bottom of the first inning. With Maddie Fitzgerald on second after a single and a sacrifice and two away, Paige Hunter’s misplayed ball behind second base brought her home. Alyssa Noce followed with an RBI single. After a walk, Kyra McCathy had a basehit to right for a 3-0 lead.
“Coming in we knew we needed a strong mindset to beat a team like Stamford,” said Noce, a senior designated player. “It’s not so much as next player up, as it is that everyone contributes so that takes the pressure off.”
Stamford’s Amy Covino slugged a leadoff home run to left-center field in the second. The blast had the bleachers buzzing, as what looked like a double off the fence was ruled a home run that bounced back into the field of play.
St. Joseph pitcher Payton Doiron was unfazed, retiring 6 of the next 7 batters, with only a single by Yacavone Morgan providing a threat.
A pair of walks around two pop ups brought Hunter to the plate in the second. With the count, 2-2, Hunter stayed back on a change-of-speed pitch and spanked it into left field to make it 4-1.
Fitzgerald’s second of three hits was a hustling double up the gap in the home fourth. Charlee Horton drove her home with a two-out single.
Stamford’s best chance to get back in it came in the sixth. Dana Serrocchio worked Doiron for her second walk, and after one of seven strikeouts, Covino laid off an inside pitch on a 3-2 count to get on base.
Fitzgerald made a fine play at shortstop on Saunders’ roller as the runners advanced. Cami Hentz then robbed Abby Hogan of a base hit when she speared her liner in the hole at third base.
“We are very confident in our infield,” senior first baseman and captain Kaitlyn Capobianco said. “Even though we are young there, I know I’m going to get a strong throw.”
Claire Gardella singled after a walk in the Cadets’ sixth at bat. Heintz sacrificed both up a base and Fitzgerald singled in the final run.
“Overall, they were the better team,” Stamford head coach Melissa Giordano said. “We pitched well, but we didn’t play the defense you need to defeat a team like St. Joseph.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
St. Joseph’s Maddie Fitzgerald had three hits, including a double, scored twice, and had an RBI. She was also in on six outs defensively.
ST. JOSEPH 6, STAMFORD 1
STAMFORD 010 000 0—0-2-2
ST. JOSEPH 310 101 X—6-8-1
Batteries: Stamford-Kim Saunders (LP) and Amy Covino; St. Joseph-Payton Doiron (WP) and Charlee Horton
Records: St. Joseph (21-0, 17-0 FCIAC); Stamford (12-8, 12-5 FCIAC)