Foran-Maloney in tomorrow's semifinal

The Foran High softball team advanced to the Class L state tournament semifinals with three consecutive shutout victories.

Led by ace southpaw Jess Harkness, the eighth-seeded Lions opened state play with a 3-0 win over visiting No. 25 Bristol Eastern on May 29.

Foran (21-5) then used a six-run sixth inning to blow by No. 9 seed Wethersfield, 7-0, on May 30.

That set up a semifinal showdown with No. 16 seed Bunnell High, which had knocked off previously unbeaten top-seed Torrington High, 2-1, in the second round.

The Lions won Saturday afternoon’s matchup going away, cruising to an 11-0 triumph to set up Tuesday night’s semifinal bout with No. 5 seed Maloney of Meriden at Biondi Field in West Haven.

The winner of that matchup will face either No. 2 seed Masuk of Monroe (25-0) or No. 6 Berlin (20-3) in the state final this weekend.

Against Wethersfield, Harkness and Eagle ace Megan Kieselback were embroiled in a pitchers’ duel through 5 1/2 innings.

The lone run of the game up until that point came in second, when Ashley Mendillo reached on an error, advanced to second on Jenna Zacarelli’s sacrifice bunt, and scored on Suzie Anthony’s two-out RBI single to left field.

“We did a lot of great things,” Foran coach Jeff Bevino said. “They put the ball in play.”

Mendillo sparked the sixth-inning uprising as well, following Rebekah DeRosa’s one-out single with a hustle double to left-center field.

Zacarelli then laced a two-run single to center, pushing the Lion edge to 3-0. Bryzy Gonski then singled, before Anthony grounded out to shortstop to move both runners into scoring position.

Amanda Portoff then slashed a run-scoring single to left field. Dani Kemp, who went 2-for-3 with a walk, hammered a single back through the middle and Marissa Bruno delivered the knockout punch — a two-run double to make it 7-0.

Harkness, who scattered four hits, notched consecutive strikeouts to seal the victory in the top of the seventh, after issuing a lead-off walk to Morgan Fischer.

The junior struck out 13 batters in all and allowed just one extra-base hit —  a booming double off of the left-field fence by Susan Kieselback to start the top of the fourth.

Alexandra Swanson’s bunt moved Susan Kieselback over to third base, before Harkness defused the threat and preserved Foran’s 1-0 lead by striking out Alex Saharek and Fischer to retire the side.

“That’s a 17-4 team, with a team batting average of something like .404,” Bevino said. “Every at-bat my stomach was churning, especially in a one-run game.”

Foran looked to break through in the bottom of the first, when Kemp drew a lead-off walk and Bruno bunted her over to second.

Kemp rounded second and appeared to be interfered with by shortstop Susan Kieselback.

Kemp got up and attempted to get to third base, but was cut down by Fischer’s throw from across the diamond

Fallon Bevino then punched a double to right field, before DeRosa grounded out to end the frame.

“We caught a couple of bad breaks, especially early on,” Jeff Bevino said. “She should’ve been awarded the bag... But those are the breaks.”

The Lions, who eliminated Wethersfield 4-0 in last year’s quarterfinals, shook off the tough call, taking the lead in their next at-bat and never relinquishing it.

“We played defense, we made all of the plays,” Jeff Bevino said. “Pitching, defense and timely hitting. That’s all it comes down to.”