The Jonathan Law and Foran High softball teams took the field with heavy hearts on Monday, playing the first varsity sports contest since Law student Maren Sanchez was stabbed to death last Friday morning.
After observing a pre-game moment of silence for Sanchez and releasing purple balloons from the pitcher’s circle, both squads put on a brave display for the hundreds of fans in attendance at Law Softball Field.
“Your emotions get the best of you,” Foran coach Jeff Bevino said. “What I told the girls is, ‘Let’s take these two hours that we have here and let’s try to make it a distraction. Let’s try to get our minds off it and play ball.’”
In the end, the Lions beat the Eagles 5-2 in the Southern Connecticut Conference Hammonasset Division contest. But the real victory came from the players who were able to maintain focus for seven innings under tragic circumstances and provide a brief respite for a grief-stricken community.
“They show so much strength, they come together like a little family out there,” Law coach Melanie Paolini said. “There’s bigger things than softball games sometimes… Right now, they’re learning a true lesson in friendship. That’s going to go a long way in life over softball games.”
On the field, Foran (5-3) was led by three doubles and two runs batted in from senior slugger Fallon Bevino and a five-hit performance in the circle from junior Ashley Mendillo.
Mendillo, stepping in for injured ace Jess Harkness, helped her own cause at the plate with two hits and two runs scored.
The only walk she issued was an intentional pass to Amanda Leone in the first inning.
“Ashley was tremendous today, spot on,” Jeff Bevino said. “We asked her to step up this week with Jess out [with a hip flexor] and she did.”
A defensive gem by the Lions’ Amanda Portoff in center field in the bottom of the third inning kept the Eagles off the board.
Erin Saley led off the frame with a double to left field and moved to third on Stephanie Cameron’s sacrifice bunt.
Gege Romero then hit a fly to center field that Portoff caught. Saley tagged up from third base, but Portoff delivered a strike to catcher Dani Kemp, who tagged out Saley to complete the inning-ending double play.
Feeding off the momentum-swinging double play, the Lions pinned three runs on Law ace Jenna Bernard in the top of the fourth.
Ashley Mendillo lined a single just past a leaping Romero at shortstop and Fallon Bevino followed with a towering double to the left-center field alley.
Kayla Gosselin punched a run-scoring single to right to get the Lions on the scoreboard and Jenna Zacarelli lifted a sacrifice fly to left field to drive in Bevino.
Amanda Mendillo’s RBI single made it 3-0 and her older sister came back in the bottom of the frame with a shut-down inning, retiring the heart of Law’s lineup — Bernard, Leone and Danielle Gray — in order.
Fallon Bevino’s two-run double in the top of the fifth plated Portoff and Ashley Mendillo, increasing the Foran edge to 5-0.
“We got some key hits at key times… Our girls hit the ball well today, they really did,” Jeff Bevino said.
Law pulled back a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth.
Cassidy Boath lined an opposite-field single to right and Saley bunted for a two-out single.
Cameron then laced a two-run double to center, but Ashley Mendillo defused the threat by retiring Romero on a comebacker to the circle.
From there, Ashley Mendillo retired seven consecutive batters to seal the victory.
“I’m proud that they came out here, they worked hard and they kept their heads up,” Paolini said of her team. “They didn’t give up. Foran played a tremendous game, but we’re dealing with a lot here. We’re going to take it one day at a time and my focus is their healing and everything is going to fall into place.”
Justine Bannon made a game-saving catch with two Cheshire runners on base and the Jonathan Law softball team defeated the visiting Rams, 2-1, on April 24.
Winning pitcher Jenna Bernard hit a home run in the fourth inning to bring in the go-ahead run for the Eagles.
Jonathan Law scored 15 runs in the first inning on its way to posing a 21-3 softball win over Hillhouse High from New Haven on April 23.
Danielle Gray hit for the cycle (first in school history) and added eight RBIs. Lena Arnold and Erin Saley added home runs. Aubrey Bepko struck out six batters.
Stephanie Cameron had four hits, drove in four runs, and scored a run to lead Law to a 14-1 victory over Bunnell of Stratford on April 19. Madison Murphy had two hits for the 4-1 Eagles.
Anna Lynch and Amanda Leone each hit a home run to back Bernard, who allowed only four hits.
Leone had a double for Law in a 3-0 loss to East Haven on April 21.
Bernard hit a two-run home run in the top of the first inning and Law posted a 2-0 victory at Hamden High. Bernard pitched a five-hit shutout. Gray had two hits.