MERIDEN – Foran softball coach Stephanie Dawid could sense the nerves of her team in the pregame warm up. The first-year coach was hoping for a quick start to settle those nerves.
Dawid and the Lions got exactly what they needed when junior shortstop Amanda Mendillo launched a two-run first inning homer and the Lions held off a late Maloney rally as sixth-seeded Foran upset the third-seeded Spartans 3-2 in the CIAC Class L quarterfinals at Dunn Sports Complex Thursday afternoon.
Foran advances to the semifinals at a site and time to be determined against second-seeded Masuk, a 2-0 winner over Lauralton Hall.
“Amanda (Mendillo) was huge for us today,” Dawid said after her team improved to 19-5. “To get us going like that in the first inning was big. We definitely had some nerves when we came out, but to have her hit that home run allowed us to breathe a little sigh of relief.”
Mendillo came up big defensively with several nice plays at shortstop as well as offensively, finishing with three hits and two runs batted in. Mendillo’s big day fell just short of a cycle as she missed out with only a triple to add.
The Lions took a lead they never relinquished in the first inning when Caitlyn Parisi reached on a one-out error and Mendillo launched a shot over the fence in left center for a 2-0 lead.
“It felt good,” Mendillo said of the homer. “It felt good to do it for the team. We each share a special bond and we have been able to come together. We have been working on all different plays in practice and that hard work is paying off.”
Mendillo’s blast immediately put pressure on the Spartans and, after leaving a runner on in each of the second and third innings, Maloney finally got on the scoreboard in the fourth.
With two outs, Riley Maloney walked and scored when a single by Anna Hendricks was booted in the outfield.
With Hendricks on second, Foran turned to its defense to preserve the lead. Isabel Frazza lined a single to center, but Maloney could not get the equalizer as Natalia Hart’s strong throw home cut down Hendricks at the plate for the final out of the inning.
“We were right there,” Maloney coach Scott Aresco said after his team finished the season 17-5. “We left a lot of runners on base. (Amanda) Mendillo is a great player. She hit the ball over the fence. If we call a different pitch, maybe it is a different game. We had opportunities.”
Maloney had another scoring opportunity in the fifth when Hannah Abele and Regan Maloney singled with two outs, but Foran’s freshman pitcher Makenna Prete got MiAziah Ortiz on a fly ball to right to end the threat.
“We did not expect it to be easy,” Dawid said. “We expected a fight from them.”
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Foran increased the lead to 3-1 in the sixth as Mendillo led off with her third hit of the game, a double to left, and scored on Brittney Baker’s two-out triple to right.
“It feels unbelievable,” Mendillo said of advancing to the semifinals. “It is my first time there. I am very excited.”
Baker was stranded at third and that run left off the scoreboard looked as if it would prove costly in the final two innings when Maloney rallied in each frame.
Riley Maloney and Hendricks hit one-out singles in the sixth with both moving into scoring position on an outfield error. Prete escaped without any damage, getting Frazza on a pop out to Mendillo at short and Makenzie Meyer on a grounder back to the circle.
Trailing by two runs, the Spartans had one last rally in the bottom of the seventh. Abele and Regan Maloney singled with one out and pitcher Paige Uliase hit a two-out single to score Abele.
Prete then walked Riley Maloney to load the bases, before getting Hendricks to hit a grounder wide of second which Parisi turned into a force out at second to end the game.
“We had a difficult end to the season,” Dawid said. “We lost three in a row. It could have been good for us. We saw the difference in what we need to do. We needed to step it up.”
Abele led the Maloney offense with three hits, while Regan Maloney, Riley Maloney and Hendricks each had a pair of hits. Uliase went the distance for the Spartans, allowing seven hits, while walking one and striking out eight.
FORAN 3, MALONEY 2
Foran 200 001 0 — 3 7 2
Maloney 000 100 1 — 2 11 1
Makenna Prete and Kayla Gosselin; Paige Mickens-Uliase and MiAziah Ortiz.
WP: Makenna Prete (). LP: Paige Mickens-Uliase (). 2B: (MA) Anna Hendrickson. 3B: (FO) Brittney Baker. hr: Amanda Mendillo (FO)RBI: Mendillo (2), Baker (FO).
Comments: Mendillo went 3-3 with two runs scored and Baker drove in the winning run with her triple for Foran; Riley Maloney went 2-2 with 2 walks and Hendrickson went 3-4 for Maloney.