For more than four innings, Wednesday’s softball game between Ridgefield and New Canaan was a nail-biter, with the Tigers clinging to a 1-0 lead with two outs in the home half of the fifth inning.
Then the wheels came off for the Rams.
New Canaan committed five of its eight errors in the inning, leading to a six-run outburst for the Tigers, who went on to a 7-1 win at Ridgefield High School.
With the victory, Ridgefield improved to 7-9 on the season and 7-5 in the FCIAC. The Tigers moved to within one win of clinching a state postseason berth while also keeping their conference playoff hopes alive.
“We’re focusing on getting the win every single day,” said Ridgefield head coach Lauren Greywacz. “We’re not looking down the road, just the game that’s at hand and trying to get the win.”
Ridgefield freshman pitcher Alyssa DeStefano had perhaps her best performance of the season, holding New Canaan to just four hits and two walks while striking out five to earn the win.
“Alyssa has been super solid for me,” said Greywacz. “She’s been working on consistently hitting her spots so that we can use some of her other pitches to have some fun with.”
Six different Tigers had a hit off New Canaan pitcher Gillian Kane, who did not allow an earned run in the contest, striking out nine batters and walking one in six innings. Eight of those strikeouts came in the first four innings, before the Tigers made the necessary adjustments at the plate to put the onus on New Canaan’s defense.
“You can’t give any team — let alone a team that’s in a playoff race — seven unearned runs,” said New Canaan head coach Joel Geriak. “We’re better than that. We have the best pitcher in the league in my opinion, but if you don’t play defense behind her it makes it hard.”
After a scoreless first inning, the Tigers broke through in the bottom of the second. With two outs, catcher Claire Filaski reached on an error and stole second. After moving to third on a wild pitch, Filaski scored when Mikayla Melahn reached safely on a dropped third strike to give Ridgefield a 1-0 lead.
New Canaan was poised to counter in the top of the third as Adriana Annese led off with a walk and moved to second on a groundout by Mary Haney. Lizzie Kuchinski was hit by a pitch to set up the Rams with runners on first and second with the top of the order coming up.
But DeStefano was able to wiggle out of trouble, first getting a fielder’s choice grounder for out number two. New Canaan—with runners at the corners— then tried a delayed double steal. Ridgefield was prepared for it, as a designed cutoff throw-and-return between Filaski and shortstop Sabrina Grizzaffi caught Annese at home to end the threat.
Both pitchers cruised through the third and fourth innings and into the fifth, when things unraveled for New Canaan.
With one out, Grizzaffi reached on an error and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Mallory Shofi then beat out an infield single as Grizzaffi advanced to third.
Grizzaffi came home with Ridgefield’s second run on a passed ball, with Shofi moving to third. Skylar Arent followed with a grounder through New Canaan’s defense to score Shofi, extending the Tigers’ lead to 3-0.
DeStefano moved Arent to second on a line drive single to center. Both runners advanced a base on a wild pitch before Makena Skrobar’s grounder was misplayed, allowing Arent to score for a 4-0 Ridgefield lead.
Two more New Canaan errors led to three additional runs for the Tigers. By the time the dust settled and the third out was finally recorded, the Tigers had a 7-0 lead after five innings.
New Canaan scored its only run in the top of the sixth as Kara Fahey led off with a line drive single to center and came around to score on Emma Shullman’s single to left.
DeStefano was able to work out of further trouble, inducing a ground out and then a double play to end the inning. The young pitcher then set New Canaan down in order in the seventh to end the game.