The Ridgefield High softball team may be thinking about a new nickname. Cinderella may be the best of the list.
After needing two days to post a mild upset over Greenwich in the opening round of the Class LL state tournament, the 19th-seeded Tigers used a conventional method in the second round.
Behind the solid pitching of sophomore Alyssa DeStefano, clutch hitting, and sure fielding, Ridgefield upset third-seed West Haven, 5-0, at Biondi Field in West Haven Friday afternoon.
“These girls love the game,” Ridgefield coach Lauren Greywacz said. “They believe in each other. We came out here to get it done and we did. We pulled together and made the plays we had to make. We stepped up.”
With the win, Ridgefield (14-9) advances to the state quarterfinals on Saturday at sixth-seed Southington at 3 p.m. It will be the Tigers’ fourth bus trip in four days.
For West Haven (18-4), one of the best seasons in recent memory will also go down as one of the most disappointing as the Westies opened the season with 15 consecutive victories, before losing four of their last seven, including losses in the opening rounds of both the Southern Connecticut Conference and state tournaments.
“They did everything they could to win,” West Haven coach Joe Morrell said of Ridgefield. “Their pitcher (DeStefano) was unbelievable today. She kept the ball out of the zone. They made the plays and got the hits.”
For Ridgefield, the win continued a season turnaround as the Tigers opened the year with just one win in their first seven contests.
“The season did not start so great,” Ridgefield’s Sabrina Grizzaffi said. “But, we came together. We knew they are a great team. We came into this as just another normal game.”
Grizzaffi opened the game for Ridgefield with a single, before West Haven pitcher Ivy Santos hit the next two batters to load the bases.
Skylar Arent singled to left to score Grizzaffi, and DeStefano followed with a sacrifice fly to right for a 2-0 lead.
That was all DeStefano needed as she went the distance, allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out seven batters.
“I just took it one pitch at a time,” DeStefano said. “We did not want to get ahead of ourselves. I knew I had my defense behind me.”
West Haven had two solid scoring opportunities but could not capitalize.
In the bottom of the first, Ashlynn O’Keefe and Veronica Lynn drew one-out walks before DeStefano got Kailey Carrano on a fielder’s choice and struck out Santos to end the threat.
Trailing 5-0 in the sixth, the Westies had their final threat as Morgan Peryer singled to lead off the inning and Lynn reached on an error to put runners on the corners. The threat came to a sudden end as a hard-hit ball by Carrano was turned into an inning-ending double play.
Ridgefield took a 4-0 lead in the fourth inning when Lauren Bayer scored on a wild pitch and Alex Kinkead scored on a single to center by Claire Filaski.
Kinkead scored the final run in the sixth when she reached on an error, went to second on a passed ball, and scored on an error while attempting to steal third.
Grizzaffi and Kinkead led Ridgefield with two hits apiece.
Santos went the distance for West Haven, allowing two earned runs on eight hits. She walked two and struck out six.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Alyssa DeStefano, Ridgefield: Sophomore tossed a complete game two-hitter, striking out seven and walking two. DeStefano also had a hit and drove in one run.
“We have a lot of stuff going on in our lives. But we know when it is game time, we are focused hard until the last out.”
— Ridgefield junior Sabrina Grizzaffi