SWC softball semifinal Defending champ Masuk advances past Newtown
STRATFORD — The team to beat marches on.
Now seven innings away from a SWC three-peat, the Masuk softball team advanced to Thursday’s final behind a 14-0 win over Newtown at DeLuca Field.
The No. 2 team in the GameTimeCT Top 10 Poll improved to 21-1 behind another commanding performance from Sam Schiebe and more than enough help from her lineup. Schiebe yielded just five hits in the win.
“We’re super-focused,” said Panthers senior Gretchen Bunovsky. “It’s silly to say but we focus on staying focused a lot. We always talk about no matter what game we’re going to have all ouor attention on scoring first and playing the best we can.”
The game was a rematch of last year’s final — won by the Panthers 6-0. The Nighthawks were the last SWC team to defeat Masuk, a streak that has now reached two years. Schiebe and Meg McFarland each had three hits at the plate for the top seed.
Bunovsky will play her summer ball with the Brakettes before heading to Yale, and appeared to feel right at home with DeLuca Field on Tuesday. She hit a shot to center that scored two runs in the second that built a 4-0 advantage, then drove in another two with a single as part of a five-run fifth inning as Newtown switched pitchers.
“Each of them had a slightly different speed and one had a good changeup I had to lay off a few times,” Bunovsky said. “I was just looking for good pitches to drive up the middle.”
Newtown had a pair of chances to score with the game close — in the second and third innings with two runners on each time — but Schiebe ended each threat with a strikeout. Masuk scored nine times in the fifth and sixth innings to put an exclamation point.
“I think we knew at this point they wanted us,” Masuk coach Leigh Barone said. “We beat them twice already and especially in a tournament, and I think they came off pretty strong. They were making plays in the field and put the ball in play. They stuck in there for a while.”
It was a similar trend in the nightcap where the second-seeded Lancers upended No. 6 New Milford 6-0 to book a date with the Panthers. Bri Brown threw a two-hitter as the Lancers pounded out 14 hits.
The hardest of those was smashed by sophomore MacQuarrie Stone-Folmar, who is taking the state by storm in her first year at the school. She belted a solo home rub in the fourth — her state-leading 18 in 22 games — to make it 4-0.
“I think the best is yet to come out of her, there’s no doubt she’s a Division I player,” said Lancers coach Jeff Bevino. “She’s an incredible athlete and a big talent. She’s a leader on the field and makes every play.”
ND-Fairfield advanced to the SWC final for the first time in school history with the win, and will face top-seeded Masuk.
“We’re very excited,” Bevino said. “People don’t know how young we are; these girls have worked for everything they’ve got. We’re proud of these girls; I thought we played an outstanding game today.”
Meredith McDonald homered twice for the Lancers, who left the bases loaded twice in the first three innings. It didn’t matter as Brown dominated in the circle.
Brown struck out 10 batters, including the side three times in the first, fifth and seventh inning.
A remarkably young ND squad got out to a blistering start before running into several hurdles midway through the season. Another shot at a Masuk — which beat the Lancers 8-1 during the regular season — awaits back at DeLuca Field.
“It’s a big thing for us to get another shot at Masuk again,” McDonald said. “They’ve been our rivals for several years, especially in this tournament. It should be incredible and I’m looking forward to it.”
The Green Wave - who upset Barlow in the quarterfinals to advance - got hits from Heather Dempsey and Olivia Casa. Another young team with several key contributors being freshmen, New Milford should profit from experience of the big stage.
“It’s definitely good experience for them,” said New Milford coach Frank Bonacci. “My pitcher (Emma Deakin) is a freshman and she pitched a heck of a game today. She is going to be a force in the league for the next three years. We have only have two seniors on the team and I think we’re going to get better.”
MASUK 14, NEWTOWN 0
NEWTOWN000 000 0 — 0 5 5
MASUK221 044 X — 14 13 0
ND-FAIRFIELD 6 NEW MILFORD 0
NEW MILFORD000 000 0 - 0 2 1
ND-FAIRFIELD102 111 X - 6 14 3