MILFORD >> Law coach Melanie Paolini struggled to find the words to describe what was going on with her softball team through three-plus innings of Monday afternoon’s CIAC Class L first-round contest.
Then, a freshman, Madison Murphy, came up big.
Murphy’s double drove in two runs in the fourth inning and was the start of a day that saw Murphy and fellow freshman Cassidy Boath ignite a Law team that was sluggish from the start.
Senior Stephanie Cameron then came up with the game-winning hit in the bottom of the eighth as No. 11 Law rallied to defeat 22nd-seeded Middletown, 3-2, at Jonathan Law.
With the victory, Law advances to the second round, where it will play sixth-seeded and Southern Connecticut Conference rival Sheehan Tuesday afternoon in Wallingford. The two teams met last week in the SCC tournament, with Law prevailing.
“People say a win is a win,” Paolini said after her team improved to 16-7. “I am just happy we get to play another day. Our freshmen stepped up today and really came up big.”
With the game even at 2 in the eighth inning, Law took advantage of a pair of Middletown errors to advance to the second round. Boath led off with a single, Murphy reached on an error and Justine Bannon was safe when her one-out grounder to Middletown pitcher Maddy Feshler was bobbled, allowing Law to load the bases.
Needing anything to the outfield, Cameron obliged. Her shot to deep left center fell for the game-winning single, allowing Boath to score the winner.
“I thought we were a little flat,” Cameron said of her team’s start. “Jenna (Bernard) threw a great game and we were able to rally. We did not want to lose the first game again like last year, especially after being a higher seed. We can not take anybody for granted.”
Law was forced to rally as Middletown took advantage of two first-inning walks by Law pitcher Jenna Bernard and a run-scoring double by Kersti Noetzel to take a 2-0 lead after one inning of play.
The Blue Dragons never tacked on any more runs as Bernard settled down and allowed only one more hit the rest of the way, a fourth-inning single by Alexys Davila.
“We could not score after that,” Middletown coach Scott Ahlers said after his team closed the season at 9-12. “I am not sure we got another hit after the first inning. She (Bernard) is really good. She mixed her pitches, started to change speeds and had us off balance.
“We could not get runners on base. That is a credit to their pitcher. She mixed things up.”
While Bernard settled in, the Law offense struggled to get going. Law had a golden opportunity to get on the board in the second, but Amanda Leone was caught off second after a bunt by Danielle Gray.
Boath and Murphy followed with singles, but Lena Arnold’s line drive was snared at first by Kelsey White for the final out of the inning. Cameron singled in the third, but was erased by a double play, before Law finally got on the scoreboard in the fourth inning.
Leone and Gray singled with one out, and after a fielder’s choice grounder by Boath, Murphy doubled in the gap in right center to score Gray and Boath to even the game at 2.
“Our freshmen came up with big hits,” Paolini said. “That was a big hit there.”
Bernard, who allowed just two hits, struck out eight and walked two, retired the final 13 batters of the game after a single by Davila with two outs in the fourth. Bernard’s pitching gave Law ample opportunities to win the game.
“Jenna settled down after the first inning,” Paolini said. “She did a nice job after that.”
The Eagles continued to have their opportunities, but couldn’t capitalize. In the fifth, Gege Romero reached on a one-out error and Leone singled with two outs, but both were left stranded.
In the sixth, Arnold was stranded at second, and in the seventh, Bernard doubled with two outs and Leone walked. Neither scored as Gray grounded out to second to end the inning.
Feshler pitched 7 1/3 innings for Middletown, allowing 11 hits, walking one and striking out two.
“I am unbelievably proud of this team,” Ahlers said. “Our motto all year is we are more of a family than a team. We played like that. I could not be more proud of them.”
Cameron, Leone, Boath and Murphy each finished with two hits for Law.