Softball: Masuk eliminates Law in state semifinals
WEST HAVEN — They waited. They waited out the off-speed stuff, waited for a fastball. They waited two years for another chance at a state softball championship.
Masuk earned that chance with a 20-hit outburst Tuesday at Biondi Field, beating upstart Law 14-2 in the CIAC Class L semifinals.
“It’s awesome,” said shortstop Alexa Bacoulis, who went 5-for-5 with a home run to start the eight-run bottom of the sixth. “It’s like a rerun from our sophomore year, and I think we know what it takes to win this year.
“Sophomore year, we had a pretty young team, but we’ve definitely grown. I think our team’s prepared.”
The top-ranked, top-seeded Panthers (26-0) have scored 29 runs in their past 11 offensive innings. Tuesday’s two runs were the first they’d allowed in four games; they hadn’t allowed more than one run in a game since May 14.
They scored two in the first, two in the second and two in the fourth, waiting for a fastball from Law pitcher Bri Buccitti, who’d helped 13th-seeded Law (15-9) surprise the likes of SCC champion North Haven on the way to the school’s first semifinal in 30 years.
“We knew she was throwing that off-speed pitch, and I didn’t want them jumping at that pitch,” Masuk coach Leigh Barone said. “I told them, if you have to take a pitch, make sure she throws you a fastball.”
The Panthers will face third-seeded Brookfield (20-4), which came back to beat Hand 6-5, in the final, either Friday or Saturday at a site and time to be announced. It will be Brookfield’s second state-title-game appearance: The Bobcats won Class M in 2000 behind future pro Pam Mazzarella.
The Panthers have won four, in 1974, 2007, 2008 and 2013, before this group got there.
Bacoulis drove in four runs, three of them in the sixth as Masuk sent 12 batters to the plate. Two came in on her home run, blasted over the four-row bleachers beyond the fence in left-center field on a day when the wind held up a few fly balls to left.
Maddie Procyk had four hits. Erica Pullen and Megan McFarland had three apiece.
“They were probably the strongest offensive team we’ve faced, and smart enough to sit waiting for a fastball,” Law coach Melanie Blude said. “Bri did a great job keeping them off-balance, but eventually they caught up and exploded in that one inning.”
Maddie Lula had two hits and a sacrifice fly for Law.
Alexa Bacoulis turned an unassisted double play at shortstop and went 5-for-5 with four RBIs.
Blude said she was happy to see her young team keep their heads up after the game, hoping it’ll be a confidence boost going into the summer. Could she have foreseen a tournament run like this, with two seniors, both of them in new positions this season?
“Every coach says, ‘oh, we want to get to a state championship game,’ ” Blude said, “but with a freshman pitcher on the mound, a young team... no, if you told me that was going to happen? We beat a tremendous North Haven team to get to this point: No, the answer is no.”
“We have practices where we just hit, just keep going. ... We’re determined, we’re focused, and we want to do well in the state tournament. We’re working really hard, especially on offense.” — Bacoulis