BRISTOL - The St. Paul softball team put on a late push, scratching across a run in the bottom of the seventh inning, but could not knock in any more runners, falling to undefeated Seymour 5-3 at home on Monday afternoon.
“We battled,” St. Paul coach Gary Hovhanessian said. “We didn’t give in. We got ourselves in some predicaments and we got out of some of them, most of them. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, we still had a shot to win the game. We were there with two runners on and one of our best hitters at the plate. It’s right where we want her to be.”
The Falcons were behind by three runs entering the game’s final half inning and Katelynn Oullette led off with a double, giving St. Paul hope for a comeback. The Wildcats must have felt the possibility of a Falcons resurgence because they pulled starter Molly Adamo and brought in No. 1 pitcher Jenna Geffert to get the save.
After Katrina Roy grounded out to Geffert, Janessa Gonzalez smacked a single that scored Oullette for St. Paul’s third run of the game. With Gonzalez on first and only one out, Brigid Johndrow drew her second walk of the game to put the tying run aboard.
Brooke Perez followed Johndrow and hit into a 6-4 fielder’s choice that erased Johndrow but moved Gonzalez to third. After Perez was Alessandra Milardo, St. Paul’s pitcher, and she went to battle with Geffert. After a few foul balls, Milardo finally looked to have gotten ahead of a pitch enough to put it in play but, as it hooked foul down the first base line, Seymour’s Chelsea Avila snagged it for the game’s final out, ending St. Paul’s surge.
The Falcons and Wildcats stayed knotted at zero through the first two innings, as Milardo and Adamo faced a combined total of 14 batters over the two frames. But Seymour broke the ice in the top of the third inning, as Caitlyn O’Hara reached first on an error to lead off the inning and two batters later, Beca Findley sent a Milardo offering over the fence to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead.
St. Paul got on the board in the bottom of the fourth, when Milardo got some revenge. Up to bat first in the inning, Milardo hit a home run of her own over the fence in right center field, cutting the Seymour lead to 2-1.
But the Wildcats were not fazed. They put up another pair of runs in the top of the fifth inning, both driven in by Findley. Seymour also added another in the top of the sixth inning.
It easily could have been more than one run in the sixth but a pair of great defensive plays prevented the damage from being worse. Adamo hit a one-out double as the second batter in the frame and was followed by Sierra Cripps, who drove Adamo in with a single, and O’Hara, who reached first and took second on the same error.
With Cripps on third, O’Hara on second and only one out, the Falcons looked to be in trouble. But the defense stood tall. After O’Hara, lead-off hitter Becca Johnson flew out to center field, where Johndrow made the catch. But Johndrow’s throw came in so hard and so fast that Cripps could not score. Findley, the owner of four RBI already in the game, came up to bat and drilled a foul ball down the third base line. Instead of falling harmlessly in foul territory, Gonzalez lunged to her right, stuck out her glove and snatched the ball for the third out, stranding Cripps and O’Hara and keeping the Falcons within four runs.
In the bottom of the sixth, Milardo got her second hit of the game - a double - with one out and Lindsey O’Bright hit into an error by Seymour’s left fielder, which allowed Milardo to score the Falcons’ only run in the frame, pulling the score to 5-2 in favor of the Wildcats.
St. Paul was able to take that deficit to the bottom of the seventh because of some fine play by its defense, especially in the face of controversy. After Avila led the top of the seventh off with a single, Kolby Sirowich hit a playable ground ball to St. Paul second baseman Perez. As she played it, she reached up and tagged Avila running for second and made the throw to first in time to get Sirowich, theoretically ending the inning.
But the umpire called Avila safe at second, which sent the St. Paul dugout and fans into an uproar. But, unlike MLB, Connecticut high school softball does not have instant replay or review so the call stood. But even one Seymour coach admitted one pitch after the play that Perez had gotten Avila.
In the circle, Milardo was just as strong as she was at the plate. She pitched a complete game, giving up nine hits, three earned runs and just one walk and striking out three.
While losing is never pleasant, this one will not sting too much for the Falcons. St. Paul entered the game 5-0 on the season and this result was much better than those they had against Seymour last season.
“Last year, I think we lost to them 10-1 and 13-2, or something,” Hovhanessian said. “They knew we were in the game the whole way.”
Josh Kestenbaum can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter: @K_baum30