TORRINGTON >> Heat and humidity played a role in No. 2 Torrington’s 7-3 win over No. 18 Foran in Tuesday afternoon’s Class L second-round game at Torrington High School Tuesday afternoon.
Foran senior pitcher Jess Harkness, who helped the Lions reach the Class L finals for three years in a row, including a state championship in 2011, sat out most of this season with a hip flexor. She came back a week-and-a-half ago, in time to pitch a first-round no-hitter against No. 15 Joel Barlow.
Tuesday, she and Torrington senior Sydney Matzko (7 innings, 3 earned runs, 8 hits, 11 strikeouts, 0 walks) went pitch for pitch for three innings.
In the bottom of the fourth, Harkness (4 innings, 5 earned runs, 2 hits, 7 strikeouts, 7 walks) lost the handle.
“Our pitcher was out of gas,” said Foran coach Jeff Bevino.
Locked in a 0-0 struggle for three innings-and-a-half innings, Torrington junior Marissa Morris (2-for-3, run) led off with just the second Red Raider hit against Harkness.
Matzko and Sam Pelow (2 runs) walked.
Morris dashed home from third on a wild pitch.
Pinch runner Dakotah Manson got in on another.
Alexis Tyrrell walked and stole second.
Sara Heath reloaded the bases, flying to first on a passed-ball strike three.
Another walk, to Alexa Potter (double, 3 RBI), drove in a run, Brittany Young’s fielder’s choice another, and Nikki Jamieson’s sacrifice fly earned the final of a five-run string on just one hit.
Lion junior Ashley Mendillo was on the mound in the fifth.
Sam Pelow and Sara Heath greeted her with singles.
Potter drove them in with a double to deep right center field.
At 7-0, Matzko on the mound, the game seemed sealed as dark clouds rolled in toward the outfield in the top of the sixth.
Foran bats and heat and humidity struck first.
“We’re young, but we can swing the bats,” said Bevino.
Freshman Mandi Mendillo (2-for-3, triple, RBI, run) led off the sixth with a hit. Junior Dani Kemp dropped in another. Junior Amanda Portoff sacrificed them to second and third.
Matzko left them there.
Shortstop Pelow speared a line drive for the second out. Matzko’s change-up floated in for her 10th strikeout for the third.
“(Matzko) is as good as they come,” said Coach Bevino. “I’ve seen her twice and she’s as good as advertised.”
But not altogether immune to unusual heat.
Still up 7-0, she sailed through the first two outs on a ground-out and called strike three.
Then the Lions did the unthinkable against one of the best pitchers in the state, headed for Division I North Carolina in the fall.
They drilled three big hits in a row: a double by Jenna Zacarelli; RBI single by Hannah DeSousa; RBI triple by Mandi Mendillo.
Worse, Torrington senior Pelow went down with a twisted knee on the relay from center field on Mendillo’s triple.
Mendillo sprinted home with the third Lion run.
“Our subs are solid. My only problem is I can’t get enough of them in,” said Torrington coach Maryann Musselman.
Musselman sent in freshman Lauren Jamieson at short, just in time to vie with her sister, senior Nikki at second, for a third-out pop fly. (The big sister held on.)
“It was a great game. They brought us to another level,” said Matzko, relieved to pass the second-round jinx that crashed into an undefeated season a year ago.
“We got over the hump,” she grinned.
No. 10 Berlin, an 8-0 winner over No. 7 Rockville, is the next challenge, 4 p.m. Thursday, at Torrington High School.
No. 2 Torrington 7, No. 18 Foran 3
At Torrington High School
Foran 000 000 3—3 8 0
Torrington 000 520 x—7 7 1
WP: Sydney Matzko. LP: Jess Harkness. 3B: F—Mandi Mendillo. 2B: F—Jenna Zacarelli. T—Alexa Potter.
RBI: Desousa, Mendillo (FO); Nikki Jamieson, Alexa Potter (3), Brittany Young (TO);
Records: Foran 12-11; Torrington 22-1.