SOUTHINGTON â€“ Madelyn Napierskiâ€™s perfectly placed single secured Southingtonâ€™s 3-2 walkoff win over Cheshire on Thursday, in a meeting of two of the top 10 teams in the state.
With one out and Blue Knights catcher Kaitlynn Griffin occupying third base, Napierski, the nine hitter, aired a shallow blooper over the Rams shortstopâ€™s head to score Griffin during the bottom of the seventh inning.
â€śI knew what needed to be done since it was the bottom of the seventh. We needed to get that run in either way,â€ť Napierski said. â€śObviously I was very nervous because itâ€™s not a once in a lifetime, but basically a once in a lifetime opportunity. Kate was already there and my whole team was cheering me on and I felt good about it. I did what had to be done.â€ť
Griffin reached base on a bunt single in the seventh that turned into a three-bagger as Cheshireâ€™s third baseman made an errant throw to first base, advancing Griffin all the way to third. Nicole Greco then walked to reach base for Southington, before Alison Rembish struck out, setting the stage for Napierski.
â€ś[Napierski] has been working so incredibly hard on her swing,â€ť Blue Knights coach Davina Hernandez said. â€śSheâ€™s been in and out of the lineup as the DP throughout the year. She seemed to see the ball very well off Pearson earlier in the year when we scrimmaged, so I thought today would be a great day to have her in the DP spot, and I could not be happier with her at-bats.â€ť
The score was knotted at zero until the fourth inning when the Rams cashed in on an overthrow from Rembish at home after an infield single from Gracie Hemstock. Grace Lurz platted the run for Cheshire after starting the attack with a single of her own.
It appeared Southington scored twice just prior to that in the third inning, but a bunt attempt from Lauren Verrilli hit her out of the batterâ€™s box, nullifying both of the Blue Knightsâ€™ runs.
â€śI think at that moment, it was really important for me to stay calm and not get worked up, because that energy transfers over to the players,â€ť Hernandez said. â€śI just came in, told the girls not to worry about it, weâ€™re going to come back and get another opportunity and we did. They did a good job answering back whenever they put runs and baserunners on.â€ť
A sacrifice fly from Ashlyn Desaulniers and an infield mistake from the Rams put Southington ahead, 2-1, during the fifth inning. Rembish recorded the only hit of the inning for the Blue Knights, her second of the contest.
A bases-loaded hit batsmen from Southington pitcher Julia Panarella gifted Cheshire the chance to tie the game at 2-2 during the sixth inning. The wild pitch was essentially the only critical mistake Panarella made as the senior went all seven innings and struck out 10 batters on the afternoon.
â€śShe did exactly what she was supposed to be doing,â€ť Napierski said. â€śShe was awesome. Weâ€™re all grateful for her.â€ť
With two of the best records in the state, Thursdayâ€™s matchup had a playoff atmosphere and it certainly didnâ€™t disappoint.
â€śWe made a couple mistakes and they capitalized, then they made a couple mistakes and we capitalized. With two great teams, thatâ€™s exactly what youâ€™re going to expect,â€ť Hernandez said. â€śA team like Cheshire is going to capitalize on any mistake we make, weâ€™re going to capitalize on any mistake they make. Itâ€™s a typical, scratch, claw, scrappy game and this exactly what we expected against Cheshire, for it to be a battle until the end of the game, last pitch. I was really, really proud of them.â€ť
Now winners of 15 consecutive games, the Blue Knights appear to be in a great spot with playoffs right around the corner.
â€śI think itâ€™ll definitely bring us good momentum for the future, but we have to stay present and focus on the day, but itâ€™s really good momentum for us,â€ť Napierski said.
Southington (16-1) will host Hall for its final home game of the regular season Friday at 3:45 p.m.
Southington 3, Cheshire 2
Cheshire 000 101 0 -- 2 4 3
Southington 000 020 1 -- 3 3 1
W -- Julia Panarella (S), L -- Brianna Pearson (Ch)
Records: Southington 16-1, Cheshire 16-2.