MADISON >> Before the season started, there were some questions about just how good the Hand softball team could be considering how young they were.
Those questions have been answered.
The Tigers came from behind twice Wednesday afternoon to beat East Haven, 10-7, and clinched the Southern Connecticut Conference Quinnipiac Division title.
Hand (14-5 overall) swept all eight games in the Quinnipiac Division, while East Haven (6-2 in the division and 13-7 overall) finished second in the division.
“At the beginning of the year, if you told me we’d be 14-5, I’d be extremely happy,” Hand coach Mike Niekrash said. “It was just a matter of our young players fitting in. We had three freshmen out there today.”
With the loss, East Haven four-year streak of winning its division came to a halt. The Yellowjackets had won the Oronoque each year since 2013, but with the realignment of the SCC, they moved to the Quinnipiac this spring.
“I’m not happy we didn’t keep our division title streak alive,” East Haven coach Ed Crisafi said. “I would have liked to be 15-5 or 16-4, but with what we had coming back, 13-7 is okay. We lost five All-Oronoque players, including three who had played since they were freshmen.”
Hand had to come back twice from deficits during the first five innings. East Haven scored three times in the first inning before the Tigers came to the plate. Jess Stettinger and Diana Kalman drove in runs and another scored on a wild pitch.
“Obviously, we were concerned down three runs,” Niekrash said. “But we’ve been hitting the ball extremely well against this team so we were confident we could put some runs on the board.”
He was right. Hand went ahead in the bottom of the first. A two-run double by winning pitcher Abby Geshwind was the key hit, while Sophie Schreck and Caroline Schreck each knocked in runs as the Tigers took a 4-3 edge.
East Haven grabbed the lead back in the fourth when Kalman collected her first hit of the day as the Yellowjackets took a 5-4 lead.
In the bottom of the inning Taylor Leckey drove in a run with a pinch-hit single to tie it up against 5-5.
“All day it seemed as if we were in comeback mode,” Niekrash said. “I think we had confidence we could come back and we had contributions up and down the batting order.”
But it was the bottom of the fifth inning that changed things. Hand scored five runs on two hits as East Haven made a handful of mistakes in the field. The key hits in the inning was a two-run double by Kaitlyn Martin.
“I was happy to help us get some runs,” Martin said. “We went into it knowing it was a big game. We made a few mistakes in the field, but made up for it with hitting.”
“Anytime you score five runs with two hits, it’s huge,” Niekrash said. “We took advantage of what they gave us and that’s the sign of a good team.”
The Yellowjackets scored twice in the sixth inning, but that was all that was all they could muster the rest of the way off Geshwind.
“We outhit them, but we made five errors and five unearned runs,” Crisafi said. “When we score seven runs, we’re supposed to win. “