WINSTED >> With first place and a chance to control its own destiny on the line, Northwestern’s Hannah Yabrosky stepped to the plate and laced a two-out RBI double to score Kara Deming and lift the Highlanders to a 5-4 win over Thomaston in nine innings on Thursday.
“I was very nervous,” a very excited Yabrosky said. “My prior at bats weren’t’ that good, but I knew I had to pull it off.”
Both teams came into the game at 12-1 overall — Northwestern 11-1 in the league — and the winner would be in the driver’s seat for the Berkshire League title.
“I love her,” Northwestern senior Liz Newkirk laughed. “It was a great hit, perfectly placed. When it comes down to it we can always can count on her.”
Trailing the whole game, the Golden Bears slowly clawed their way back, finally tying the game in the top of the sixth when Abby Hurlbert, who walked, scored on a wild pitch. Hurlbert advanced to second and third base on wild pitches as well.
After both teams went down scoreless in the seventh, the Highlanders had a chance to win it in the seventh with Newkirk on third, but Deming grounded out, sending the game to extra innings, where both teams would have their chances to win the game.
Thomaston fresh off the big stop in the seventh, got things going in the eighth. After two fly outs to open the inning, Morgan Sanson drew a walk and then stole second base sending Nicole Schaefer to the plate who hit a bloop to Newkirk who threw to first, but Schaefer dove head first to beat the throw. Sanson who didn’t stop running slide into home safely giving the Golden Bears the lead for the first time.
After getting out of the inning, the Highlanders had their eight and nine hitters to start the inning.
“We don’t have a bottom of the order, I can count on anyone to step up,” Highlanders head coach Stacey Zematis said.
Yabrosky led off the inning with a walk and after a strikeout leadoff hitter Jess Seymour singled to give them runners at first and second with one out. After another strikeout, where the runners moved up to second and third, Newkirk stepped to the plate.
With first base open the Golden Bears choose to pitch to Newkirk, with two outs, who homered in the first inning.
Newkirk hit a slow groundball to Golden Bears third baseman, Nina Barone, who played it and threw to first, but Newkirk beat the throw allowing, Yabrosky to score, tying the game.
In the ninth the Golden Bears went back at it, loading the bases on an error, walk and then a hit by pitch, bringing up Erin O’Neill.
O’Neill and Northwestern starter Monica Swartley battled, as O’Neill took a couple and pitches and fouled off a handful of pitches, working the count to 3-2.
“My teammates on the bench are saying they are going to throw up if we win or lose this game,” Swartley said. “I like those situations, I feel powerful in those situations.”
Swartley finally wore O’Neill down, powering a fastball past her to end the threat, her 10th and final strikeout of the game; setting up Yabrosky’s heroics.
“We didn’t execute today,” Thomaston co-head coach Gene Torrence said. “It’s not like we didn’t have shots, we had our chances.”
The Highlanders jumped out early, after Newkirk hit a two-run homerun in the first inning and then scored on a bases loaded walk in the third, but the Golden Bears started to come back, scoring two runs on an error by Northwestern shortstop Amanda Soltis, in the bottom of the fourth and then tied the game in the seventh.
With the win Northwestern is all alone atop the Berkshire League and have a harder schedule down the stretch with games against Nonnewaug (11-3) and Lewis Mills (11-4), as opposed to Thomaston who plays Litchfield, Shepaug, Wamogo and Terryville, who have a combined 17-41 record.
“This meant a lot for us, we have a tougher schedule down the stretch,” said Zematis who admitted to being anxious for this game since their game against Wamogo was postponed on Monday.
With the big game past, both teams are focused on what lays ahead.
“We have to think about what happened and move on from there,” Thomaston co-head coach Kelly Finlay said.
“We’re focused on Gilbert on Monday,” Zematis said.
Northwestern 5, Thomaston 4
Thomaston 000 201 010 — 4 6 1
Northwestern 201 000 011 — 5 10 2
Morgan Sanson, Nicole Schaefer; Monica Swartley, Hannah Yabrosky.
WP: Monica Swartley (). LP: Morgan Sanson (). 2B: (NW) Jessica Seymour; Hannha Yabrosky. HR: Liz Newkirk (NW); RBI: Schaefer (THOM); Newkirk (3), Hannah Yabrosky, Alyssa Castellani (NW);
Team records: Thomaston 12-2; Northwestern 13-1.