Class Ll softball: Freshman Pritchard closes door as Amity reaches LL semifinals
STORRS — While Kelly Pritchard’s knees might not have been shaking, there was no doubt that the precocious freshman pitcher was just a tad bit nervous when was called upon to record the final three outs in Friday’s Class LL quarterfinal game.
Host and fourth-seeded E.O. Smith once trailed by six runs and had the winning run at the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning. The tension only increased when Hailey Golembiewski was summoned over for some last-second advice from E.O. Smith coach Scott McCall. Amity senior first baseman Carly Marchitto took that moment to walk over to Pritchard, put her arm around her and do what she could to get her younger teammate to crack a smile.
A more relaxed Pritchard delivered a strike on the next pitch and then Golembiewski sent Pritchard’s next offering into the glove of outfielder Elizabeth Brownfield as fifth-seeded Amity held on for the 8-6 victory.
“She (Marchitto) said this is fun and just focus, have fun,” said Pritchard, who fell behind Golembiewski 3-0 before closing the deal.
Winning pitcher Grace Whitman, one of five seniors in Amity’s starting lineup on Friday, helped the Spartans take an 8-3 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning. While E.O. Smith’s No. 2, 3 and 4 hitters had combined for six hits in the first six innings including Madison Shea’s deep home run in the sixth inning, the rest of the lineup had reached base just twice. The first three batters due up in the seventh inning were a combined 0-for-8, but all three reached including Gabby Petrone’s two-run triple. Amity coach Sara Hale made the move to bring in Pritchard.
“Grace pitched a great game and we just needed to throw something different at them and keep them on their toes with Kelly,” Hale said. “They certainly made it interesting, they got their bats on the ball and did what they needed to do.
“It is not an easy job for anybody let alone a freshman. She came in and got into a little trouble and when she kind of settled in, the defense behind her Coley (shortstop Nicole Koshes) going over and giving her a pat on the back (before she threw her first pitch) really helped as well.”
Pritchard’s first pitch actually bounced to the screen allowing Petrone to score to make it 8-6. Allyson Petrella walked before a nasty changeup froze Shea, who came into the game leading the Panthers with a .581 batting average and 43 RBIs, for a crucial strikeout. Pritchard got Haggan to bounce back to her before a walk to Palmberg put the tying run on base.
“When they scored those runs and were within two, my stomach was turning and I was nervous but Kelly came in and did an awesome job as a freshman,” Koshes said. “She doesn’t have any experience coming into a game like that so she did an awesome job. She throws a great changeup and pitched her game.”
Amity (22-4) took the 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning without a hit. Haggan tied the game with RBI singles in the first and third innings before Koshes delivered a three-run triple in the top of the fourth.
“The pitch before when I came up to bat, she shook off a pitch so I just settled in,” Koshes said. “I haven’t really been hitting well lately so I wanted to zone in. It was a tie game so I wanted to get anything in the air and in the outfield to score one run.”
Catcher Rachael Crow drove in what proved to be the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning and Marchitto had a two-out RBI single in the top of the sixth inning.
Koshes reached base all four times and scored three runs as Amity advances to meet Southington in a semifinal matchup featuring two of the state’s blue blood softball programs as the teams have combined to play in 36 CIAC Class LL finals and have won 22 titles while squaring off in the state championship game seven times.
“We are going to go out attacking against Kara (Zazzaro),” Koshes said. “She is a very good pitcher and if we can jump on her early than I think we can win the game.”
Petrella, Shea and Haggan all had three hits for E.O. Smith (19-3).