Law swings into softball semifinals, beats Naugautck

NAUGATUCK — First came a long day with not much going on at school. Then came some tough moments on the bases and in the field.

But in the top of the seventh, when Law needed someone to put away perhaps it biggest win on the softball field in 30 years, senior first baseman Skyler Bender made something big happen.

Her two-out, two-strike, two-run triple put away a 5-2 win Friday night at 12th-seeded Naugatuck in the CIAC Class L quarterfinals. Law (15-8), seeded 13th, will face top-seeded Masuk in the semifinals on Monday or Tuesday.

“What I like about Sky, a lot of kids will have a defensive swing when they’ve got two strikes on them, but she comes up pounding regardless,” Law coach Melanie Blude said. “It was just a matter of her connecting.”

Bender connected deep to right-center, bringing in Cali Jolley, whose relay throw to the plate in the previous half-inning preserved Law’s one-run lead, and Kacy O’Connor, whose single in the seventh gave every Law starter at least one hit.

“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Bender said. “When I hit, I was having some ups and downs.”

Her error in the bottom of the fourth helped Naugatuck get back into the game. Caught off second base when Greyhounds pitcher Alyssa Roberts returned to the circle, Bender was called out to end the top of the fifth.

And even before that, it had been a weird day.

“Today was Senior Skip Day,” Blude said, “and our two seniors (O’Connor) had to come to school. Nobody in their grade was in school. It’s a long day when you’re doing nothing. I’m so happy that she’s the one that had that huge hit.”

Bender, bound for Southern Connecticut for nursing, said she took a clinical nursing test, “then I sat around all day.”

She ended up on her feet.

Law’s Skyler Bender had a double and a two-run triple.

Naugatuck, with just four seniors, finishes 15-9 after earning its first two CIAC-tournament victories in five years.

“I’m very proud of what they did, start to finish,” Greyhounds coach Kevin Wesche said. “Young kids make young mistakes, but nonetheless, I’m proud of their effort.”

Law’s Bri Buccitti and Naugatuck’s Roberts, both freshmen, didn’t pitch like it. Neither walked a batter. Buccitti retired the first nine.

“She keeps her composure like no one I’ve ever seen. Nothing rattles her. You know, I’m ready to panic, and she’s, like, (got) ice through her veins,” Blude said.

Seven of Law’s 12 hits came in the first three innings; the Lawmen scored once in each inning, though Erica Boehm was thrown out trying to stretch an RBI triple into a homer in the first.

Jolley scored two runs. Maddie Lula scored on Emily Morey’s single in the second, and Lula doubled in Gina Boccamazzo in the third. Roberts and Aryana Powell had RBI singles for Naugatuck.

Law won a Class M championship in 1980 but hadn’t returned to a semifinal since 1988. Their reward this time around: top-seeded, top-ranked Masuk (25-0), at a site and time to be announced.

“I know they’re undefeated. We’re not going to give them any runs. We’re going to do everything right and, obviously try to win, and then go to the championship,” Bender said.

“They have so much fun together. Coming here today, they were so loose that I was starting to get a little nervous, but that’s when they play best.” —Law coach Melanie Blude, on her team