BRISTOL - As South Windsorâ€™s Kenadie Gonzalez rounded third base to score the first run of the game in the opening inning, the pressure was already mounted on Bristol Easternâ€™s offense.
That was due to the matchup between the Lancersâ€™ Erin Girard and the Bobcatsâ€™ Maria Hanchuk, a pair of All-State pitchers going head-to-head Wednesday afternoon at Bristol Eastern High School.
Hanchuk got the best of the Lancers, though.
The junior ace held Bristol Eastern hitless through 4 2/3 innings en route to posting her 11th shutout of the season, and eliminated the Lancers from the Class LL tournament in the second round with a 4-0 defeat.
â€śI feel like we could have done better adjusting to the pitching and did more with the bats,â€ť Girard said. â€śWe were a little quiet today, we could have had more energy.â€ť
As the game progressed Bristol Easternâ€™s at-bats were more competitive.
It all started with two outs in the fifth inning when Jenna Winters stepped up to hit.
The sophomore broke up Hanchukâ€™s no-hit bid with a double to left field.
Winters was stranded on second base though, as Kylie Wolfradt struck out.
â€śIt felt great,â€ť Winters said. â€śI feel like I helped pick up my teammates with the hit.â€ť
The double ignited the Lancers and they carried the little offensive momentum into the bottom of the sixth, when Bristol Easternâ€™s had its best chance to score.
Lyzah Corliss and Paige McLaughlin put pressure on Hanchuk with a pair of one-out singles and Girard stepped into the batters box with the chance help herself and put a dent in the 3-0 South Windsor lead.
Girard flied out to center field and Corliss was thrown out at second base for the double play, which ended the inning.
â€śThey made adjustments at the plate, it took a little while for sure but we got some hard hit balls,â€ť Bristol Eastern coach Scott Redman said.
â€śIt might not show with our hit total or our run total but we hit the ball hard. Thatâ€™s softball, thatâ€™s baseball, they made some really good plays and took away some hits. Playing with a lead itâ€™s easier to make those plays.â€ť
There was no shortage of defensive highlights by South Windsor in the Lancers final at bats.
Bristol Easternâ€™s Riley Giblin hit a liner that got robbed by Bobcats second baseman Becca Vesco for the first out of the seventh.
The next batter, Lauren Aparo, hit a ball to center field that looked to be dropping but South Windsorâ€™s Sammie Kasheta made a diving grab for the second out.
â€śSouth Windsor takes two hits away there late in the game so you have to tip your cap to them,â€ť Redman said.
â€śI donâ€™t think they played that poorly. We did make some errors for sure mentally and you canâ€™t beat really good teams when you make those errors. But they went out and won it today, I donâ€™t necessarily think we lost it.â€ť
Bristol Eastern committed three errors in the game and Girard, who struck out six batters, did her best to keep the Lancers in the game. She allowed just one earned run.
Hanchuk had six strikeouts for South Windsor.
The Bobcats leadoff hitter Gonzalez scored two of the Bobcats runs and had two hits. Right behind her in the order, Hanchuk added a double and a single with two RBI.
Taylor Darby and Kayla Vesco drove in the other two runs for South Windsor.
After losing in the first round of last yearâ€™s Class LL tournament, the Lancers second round exit is a sign of improvement.
And with six sophomores, one junior and two freshmen making up the lineup for Bristol Eastern, the group will be one to watch in the next two seasons.
â€śI think they can go far in the coming years,â€ť Lancers senior Brianna Norton said. â€śTheyâ€™re a bright team, theyâ€™re going to be really good.â€ť
Dan Orencole can be reached atÂ 860-973-1811 orÂ firstname.lastname@example.org