NORTH BRANFORD >> The margin of error is ever so slim in a tied game, especially one in the 11th inning.
A mental mistake by North Branford in that decisive inning ultimately ended its season. Visiting Rocky Hill scored four times in the top of the 11th, and then thwarted a Thunderbirds rally and held on for a 5-2 victory in the Class M state quarterfinals Thursday at Totoket Park.
The fifth-seeded Terriers (21-1) will face No. 1 St. Joseph (24-1) in next week’s semifinals.
Rocky Hill senior Julie Slavin singled to lead off the top of the 11th. She advanced all the way to third on Riley Pickett’s sacrifice bunt after North Branford picked up the ball cleanly but failed to make a play.
“You have to get the out at first,” North Branford coach Nick DeLizio said. “The name of the game is to get outs right there. I think there was just a cross up the way the ball was, maybe a communication lapse. You can yell all you want, but it’s got to be heard all the way around the field. Sometimes the ball goes the other way, I guess.”
Slavin later scored the go-ahead run when she beat the throw home on grounder to second off the bat of senior Britany Moore.
“I knew she was making the play at home,” Slavin said. “I tried to slide in as hard as I could. I knew all Britany had to do was put it in play, and she did.”
Slavin’s run gave Rocky Hill a 2-1 lead. Pickett then scored on Arianna Genovese’s squeeze bunt, and Kelly Quiron added a two-run single to put the Terriers up 5-1.
“That (scoring four runs in the 11th) is amazing,” Rocky Hill senior pitcher Jess Greenspan said. “It’s the best feeling knowing you have so much support because you know you can give up a run and you’re still good.”
Sabrina LeMere doubled to lead off the bottom of the 11th and scored on Meghan Golia’s single. North Branford (24-2) had two runners on with no outs, but Greenspan worked a strikeout, a fly out and a ground out to end the game.
Greenspan allowed eight hits, walked two and struck out seven.
“I think just changing up the pitches, working inside-outside, and making my spins work,” Greenspan said about what worked against a normally potent Thunderbirds offense. “My defense played great behind me, so that helped a lot.”
Greenspan did not allow a runner to reach second from the fifth through the 10th inning.
“Pretty good for a non all-state member,” Rocky Hill coach Tyler Catlin said about Greenspan, who did not make the Class M coaches all-state team. “That’s all I got.”
Slavin had three of her team’s eight hits off North Branford senior pitcher Lindsay Golia.
“She’s been coming in clutch for us all season,” Catlin said about Slavin. “She always puts a good swing on it. She puts in a lot of work in. I couldn’t have enough confidence in her to get us going there.”
Quiron was hit by a pitch with one out in the third. Pinch runner Erin Kelly went to second on a ground out and then came around to score on Sophie Kurdziel’s run-scoring single to give the Terriers a 1-0 lead.
North Branford senior Haley Basil singled to lead off the bottom of the third. She went to second on a sacrifice bunt, to third when she tagged on a fly out and then scored when the throw to third from right field went out of bounds. That tied the game at 1, and it remained that way until the final inning.
Rocky Hill advanced to the semifinals for the second time in three seasons.
“Me, along with the rest of the seniors, we are so pumped,” Slavin said. “We’re ready to go.”
Despite falling in the quarterfinals for the second straight year, DeLizio was satisfied with how his team fought until the final out.
“We came back fighting,” DeLizio said. “When are back was in the corner, we came back. We were down 5-1 and we just wouldn’t give up. There’s no quit in the T-Bird.”
ROCKY HILL 5, NORTH BRANFORD 2 (11)
(at North Branford)
Rocky Hill 001 000 00004 — 5 8 3
North Branford 001 000 00001 — 2 8 0
Jess Greenspan and Arianna Genovese; Lindsay Golia and Sabrina LeMere.
WP: Jess Greenspan. LP: Lindsay Golia (19-2). 2B: (NoBfd) Sabrina LeMere. RBI: Kurdziel, Genovese, Quiron (2) (RH); Meghan Golia (NOBFD);
Team records: Rocky Hill 21-1; North Branford 24-2.