By Jimmy Zanor
@ShoreLineSports on Twitter
MIDDLETOWN >> Cheshire coach Kristine Drust said it wasn’t a championship game. But it sure felt like one after third baseman Casey Harding caught the final out in the bottom of the seventh and the Rams celebrated an 8-6 season-opening SCC victory over Mercy on Wednesday at Tiger Field.
“Everyone just kept saying…oh, game one Mercy, right off the bat,” said Drust. “A lot of people made it a big game but we kept it small, pitch by pitch. We just keep telling the girls, I don’t care what inning it is and I don’t care what the score is…it’s pitch by pitch, inning by inning and keep it small and that’s what we did today. We just kept chipping away.”
Sophomore Megan Hodgdon rapped a two-run single and junior Sarah Como smacked an RBI single to give the Rams a 3-0 lead in the top of the first against Tigers starter Mary Adametz.
Mercy was able to tie it at 3 in the third on Stephanie Mangiameli’s RBI double and a wild pitch that allowed Mangiameli to score.
But Cheshire never trailed.
The Rams (1-0) got a pair of runs in the fourth and single runs in each of the last three innings to stay one step ahead of Mercy.
“It didn’t matter how many runs we were ahead,” Drust explained. “It was see the ball and hit the ball and just keep it simple. And our girls stayed head strong.”
Gabriela Batista and Olivia Odermatt each had two hits for Cheshire. Alex DiLeo had a big RBI double in the sixth and Odermatt delivered an RBI single in the seventh that gave the Rams a two-run cushion.
“Chasing two in the seventh was tough,” said Mercy coach Tony Calcagni. “It was a typical Cheshire team. They’re big, strong and very good with the bats. And their young kid pitched very well today.”
Cheshire junior MacKenzie Juodaitis, who was making her first varsity start, allowed just five hits. Juodaitis struck out five and walked one in a complete game effort.
“She’s really working hard,” said Drust. “We’re trying to mature and think like a pitcher instead of a thrower and she’s really doing that. And we’ve got a great catcher (Hodgdon) behind the plate.”
Tigers shortstop Astin Donovan went 1-for-4 with four runs scored. Stephanie Mangiameli was 2-for-3 with two RBI’s, while Stephanie Dean and Tiffany Mangiameli each had RBI hits for Mercy (0-1).
The Tigers also made a pair of costly errors.
“I just don’t think we played our best today, obviously, and I don’t know why,” said Calcagni. “I think nerves had a lot to do with it. We got caught up in the moment.”
Mercy was ranked No. 2 in the New Haven Register preseason poll.
“I’ve still got confidence in my kids that they’ll be fine,” Calcagni added. “We play a tough schedule. Hey, we may not win as many games as we won last year and we’re still a very good team. We’ll battle.”