WEST HAVEN — Amity junior Elizabeth Brownfield could not have felt any worse than when she was doubled off second base to stymie a Spartans threat in the sixth inning. Brownfield did not have to wait long to turn devastation into elation.
Fouling off pitch after pitch with two outs, two strikes and Amity trailing by three runs in the top of the seventh inning, Brownfield won the battle against Southington ace Kara Zazzaro, singling to left to score a run and prolong an inning which saw the Spartans rally to score five times in a stunning 6-5 Class LL semifinal win over top-seeded Southington at Biondi Field in West Haven Monday evening.
“My hands were literally shaking in that at bat,” Brownfield said. “I had to stay calm and do it for my team. We made it together. We are happy to get this far. We were really fired up. We were ready to fight. It was our last chance.”
Fifth-seeded Amity will return to the title game for the first time since losing to Cheshire two years ago, and will face Trumbull, a 6-5 winner over Cheshire in the other semifinal, at a site and time to be determined this weekend.
The Spartans will be looking for their sixth state title in the program’s history.
“I have been saying it all year, we have the utmost confidence in our lineup, one through nine,” Amity coach Sara Hale said. “We have talked about it. They can do it. They have that confidence. All day, we were putting the bat on the ball. Just put the bat on the ball and good things will happen.”
Trailing 5-1 to start the seventh inning, things were not looking good for the Spartans, but senior Brooke Matyasovsky gave the team hope with a leadoff double to left. With one out, Rachael Crow singled to score Matyasovsky, and freshman Kelly Pritchard followed with a single to right.
After Leia Foyer’s fly ball to right moved a pair into scoring position, Brownfield won the battle, singling to left and getting the Spartans within 5-3. With Nicole Koshes at bat, Pritchard scored on a wild pitch, before Koshes reaches reached on an error to score Brownfield and tie the game at five.
“Honestly, when I came up to the plate, I just wanted to do what I do best and get the ball in play anywhere, and you can see that mistakes happen which is clearly what happened.,” Koshes said. “I wasn’t looking to put the ball over the fence. That’s not what I do. Put the ball in play to maybe score Daisy (Brownfield) was the goal.”
Koshes then showed why she may be one of the most dangerous players in the state on the base paths when Dani Nordyk ripped a line drive which went off the chest of Zazzaro. The ball rolled far enough away where Nordyk would reach on an infield single, but an error on the play allowed Koshes to score all the way from first to give Amity a 6-5 lead.
“Nicole (Koshes) was not stopping there,” Hale said. “I was just calling her through. We have confidence in ourselves. We have been saying ‘Why not us? Why not us.’ We have the talent and hitters to make it happen.”
Said Nordyk, “I think we knew we were down and needed to get back up quickly. The energy was up. The coaches were helping. It was kind of scary, but I knew we could come back I believe in my teammates.”
The incredible rally by the Spartans put aside a tremendous performance by Zazzaro through the first six innings.
The senior retired the first nine batters and had surrendered just one run when Nordyk doubled to score Koshes in the fourth. Zazzaro used her defense to escape a jam in the sixth, and appeared to be cruising with her team trying to get back to the state championship for the second straight year and fifth time since 2013.
“Amity has been a great hitting team all year,” Southington coach Davina Hernandez said. “We knew they had a very strong hitting lineup. She (Brownfield) kept fouling off those pitches. It was their second and third time through the lineup and they were on everything Kara (Zazzaro) was throwing. She is a good pitcher and they were still all over it. We fought. Unfortunately, it came down to a few errors.”
Southington jumped out to a 3-0 lead with a single run in the second inning and two more in the third. Madison Rocha doubled to score Gabriella Verderame in the second, and Abigail Lamson singled to plate Nicole Greco and Chrissy Marotto in the third.
Leading 3-1, Southington looked to put the game away with a pair in the fifth as Zazzaro doubled to score Sarah Myrick, and Francesca Ferrante doubled to plate Kayla Pelletier.
Pritchard relieved Amity starter Grace Whitman prior to Ferrante’s at bat and finished the contest by getting out of the fifth inning with no more runs, then allowed just a one-out single in the sixth. Pritchard retired the side in order in the seventh, sending Amity back to the finals.
“Grace (Whitman) did a phenomenal job,” Hale said. “She has been there all season. She came out for a change of pace. Kelly (Pritchard) is steel. That is not a situation for every freshmen. I don’t care if you are a senior. That is a tough spot.”
Koshes and Nordyk led Amity with two hits apiece, while Zazzaro and Greco did the same for Southington.