Lauralton softball upended by East Haven

When the No. 10 seed East Haven and Lauralton Hall softball teams met on June 5 for the first time in their Southern Connecticut Conference careers, no one would’ve guessed after eight innings, while the teams were locked in a 1-1 stand-off, that it would come down to an unbelievable ninth frame, one in which nine runs would be scored.

What started out as a battle between two well-tested pitchers wound up as a frantic hitter’s run to the finish.

The Yellow Jackets came out on top, 6-5 and moved on to a semifinal round encounter with Nonnewaug Regional of Woodbury.

For the Crusaders, who entered as the No. 2 seed and had already won 20 games on the season (against five losses including two in the teams’ last three games), it was an excruciating loss, one that the team almost pulled out.

“Our kids fought today, that’s about the best way to describe it,” said Lauralton Hall coach Amanda Acampora. “We came close in that comeback, not quite close enough, however.”

There were more sub-plots in this game than you could find in a Russian novel.

The Crusaders’ starting pitcher, junior Ireland Miessau, transferred from East Haven two years ago.

Another pair of starters, designated hitter Erin McCann and first baseman Kaitlyn Mingione, are East Haven residents.

Crisafi has coached softball at East Haven for eons, but the team didn’t have its greatest success until the past three years and will now be making its’ third straight appearance in the semifinals.

Acampora took over at Lauralton Hall for Theresa Napolitano and has kept the program at a high level of proficiency.

The Crusaders, looking for momentum while having the home-field advantage, got the start they wanted.

Lead-off hitter and lefty swinger Jackie Brewster drove her fifth offering from Laura Anderson the opposite way, and when the ball got by East Haven centerfielder Kara Hanson, she ended up with a three-base hit.

Lindsay Spitz’ base knock two batters later scored Brewster and gave the Crusaders a 1-0 lead.

Despite putting runners on base in three of the game’s first five innings, the Yellow Jackets (17-7) weren’t able to find that elusive run they needed until the sixth.

Julie San Giovanni opened with a single, her second hit of the game. She went to second when Jenna Villecco’s bounder up the middle reached the outfield. Giovanna Russo followed with an infield hit and East Haven had the bases loaded.

Freshman catcher Jess Stettinger stepped to the plate. She had singled the inning before, but this time she lifted a high fly ball to center which Alexi Dawid corralled.

San Giovanni, another freshman, raced home on the sacrifice fly and the Yellow Jackets had secured a deadlock.

The two squads then found themselves going through a pair of scoreless innings. The Crusaders put runners on base in both, but they couldn’t come up with a key hit.

Miessau came out for the ninth having already thrown 126 pitches. East Haven’s first two batters, Stettinger and pinch-hitter

Brianna Carrano, worked her for long counts before each collected base hits.

With runners on first and second, the teams’ No. 9 hitter, Ali Esposito, put down a bunt that was thrown away allowing two runners to score as Esposito made her way to third.

Acampora then brought in Haley Congdon, a pitcher of equal stature, but one who had missed a great deal of the season due to an injury.

Congdon hit Allie Luzzi with a pitch to put runners on the corners.

Anderson’s sacrifice scored Esposito and Luzzi, who had stolen second, went to third.

San Giovanni came up and executed a perfect suicide squeeze as Luzzi raced home and beat the attempted tag by Alex Moleski.

East Haven now had a 5-1 lead and had given  up only one out. San Giovanni stole second, went to third on a ground ball and eventually scored on a wild pitch.

Faced with a five-run deficit, the Crusaders fought back in their half of the inning.

Back-to-back singles by Mingione and Miessau got the team started.

With runners at first and second, Christiana Cottrell, who’d made no fewer than three defensive gems at shortstop, reached on a fielder’s choice as Mingione scored.

Moleski then reached base on a misplayed fly ball. McCann kept the rally going with an RBI single, and when Brewster singled to right the Crusaders found themselves down only a run.

With two outs, however, Dawid flied out to Hanson in center.

“We’re going to lose six seniors (including starters Moleski, Spitz, Brewster, Dawid and Congdon),” Acampora said. “We’ll find a way to get through this.”