Both the Stamford Black Knights and the Ridgefield Tigers were red hot coming into the FCIAC softball tournament. When they met in the quarterfinals on Friday, something had to break.
The Knights belted four home runs and received a spectacular performance from sophomore Jordan Rossi out of the bullpen as they overcame Ridgefield for a 10-7 victory in the conference quarterfinals Friday at Stamford High School.
Fourth-seed Stamford (17-4), which has won nine straight games, will face top-seed St. Joseph in the semifinals at Sacred Heart University on Monday. Fifth-seed Ridgefield will get ready for the start of the Class LL state tournament.
While Stamford's bats pounded out 12 hits, it was Rossi’s performance in the pitching circle that stole the show.
The two teams had combined for 13 runs on 16 hits when Rossi entered with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the fourth. She retired 10 of the 12 batters she faced, allowing no hits and one walk while striking out six to get the win.
“Our defense is very good and we were making a lot of plays,” Rossi said. “The cheering also really helped and I just felt very confident and I knew I could do it. They’re a great team, but I felt like our energy was up today and we were going to have a good game.”
Ridgefield (12-9) traded punches with Stamford early, but couldn’t erase the 10-7 deficit against Rossi over the final three innings.
Still, the Tigers have come a long way since the early part of the season.
“We started off our season 0-5 and we got into the conference [play] and we were 2-7,” Ridgefield head coach Lauren Greywacz said. “Then we got onto this hot streak of winning 10 of the last 11 games. We proved that we have heart; we have character and we have drive. We are a tough team and a team to reckon with. This is how the No. 4 and No. 5 seed goes — this is the kind of game you get.”
Stamford’s big inning was the bottom of the fourth, when it scored five runs to turn a 7-5 deficit into a 10-7 lead. The inning featured three extra-base hits, including an RBI double by Amy Covino and back-to-back solo home runs by Abby Hogan and Rossi.
In all, the Knights hit four round-trippers, including a solo blast by Diana Magarian in the first and a three-run bomb by Covino in the second.
“I told my pitchers I didn’t envy them today,” Greywacz said. “That’s a tough nine to go against. Every pitch has to be on. I think they did a good job. It only takes one inning.”
Ridgefield led three times in the early innings.
A sacrifice fly by Skylar Arent made it 1-0 in the top of the first, with Stamford’s Magarian making an over-the-shoulder catch in deep center to end the inning.
Magarian then homered in the bottom of the inning to tie the game.
The Tigers scored on an RBI single by Sabrina Grizzaffi in the second, but Stamford jumped in front with an RBI hit by Bryce Stalteri and Covino’s three-run HR in the home half of the inning.
Ridgefield sent 10 hitters to the plate in the top of the third to take a 6-5 lead — Sarina Sheth’s two-run single was the big hit — and tacked on one more run in the top of the fourth to make it 7-5.
The Knights, however, took the lead for good with their five-spot in the bottom of the fourth, and Rossi shut down Ridgefield the rest of the way.
While Stamford moves on in the FCIACs, Ridgefeld will start preparing for the CIAC Class LL tournament which begins on May 28.
“Just stick with our philosophy,” said Greywacz when asked about Ridgefied's approach entering the state tournament. “For defense, stay intense, stay up, stay talking. For offense, get on [base], execute and move them [runners] around. That’s our philosophy, and if we do that we’ll be good.”
STAMFORD 10, RIDGEFIELD 7
RIDGEFIELD 113 200 0 — 7 9 0
STAMFORD 140 500 X — 10 12 1
Batteries: Ridgefield: Skylar Arent, Alyssa DeStefano (3), Arent (6), and Claire Filaski; Stamford: Kimberly Saunders, Jordan Rossi (4), and Amy Covino.
Highlights: Ridgefield: Sabrina Grizzaffi was 3-for-5 with an RBI; Alex Kinkead singled twice, walked, and had 2 RBIs; Sarina Sheth singled, walked, and had 2 RBIs. Stamford: Covino was 2-for-4 with a double, home run, and 4 RBIs; Rossi was 3-for-4 with a home run; Abby Hogan and Diana Magarian each hit a home run.