STRATFORD – Masuk’s Kat Gallant didn’t want the moment to become too big.
The situation begged for heroics. Masuk’s Class L softball final with St. Joseph was scoreless through three and a half innings on Saturday.
Gallant chose to think small. A larger result followed.
Gallant came to the plate after Natalie Lieto’s first-pitch, two-out single in the home fourth gave Masuk its first base runner. Gallant pulled a 3-2 pitch deep over the fence in left for a two-run homer that stood up.
Masuk held its No. 1 seed, and earned its third consecutive state title with the 2-0 victory against No. 2 St. Joseph at Frank DeLuca Hall of Fame Field.
Masuk finished its season 24-0; St. Joseph 22-2.
Gallant, who allowed three hits and struck out 12, explained her thought process during the at bat that brought her fifth home run on the season.
“Natalie got on. I wanted to move her (up a base) and keep it going for Jaci (Hall). She has been on fire and was hitting after me,” Gallant said. “It (the home run) just happened. It was a 3-2 pitch. I knew she had to come to me. I just wanted to hit it hard somewhere.”
— Bill Bloxsom (@blox354) June 12, 2021
Masuk coach Leigh Barone had words of advice for her players after they had taken the lead.
“The first thing I said to them once we got the two runs is that we can’t back down now,” Barone said. “We know St. Joseph could do the same thing with one swing. The girls knew they had to stay up. We had to play our best defense and we did.”
St. Joe’s threatened to break the deadlock when it put the ball in play four times in the top of the fourth.
Masuk’s Emma West made a diving catch to take a base hit away from Brittany Mairano to open the inning. The sparkler took on added luster. Jill Guilfoyle singled over the third base bag. Gallant left her there, however. Sarah Falcone caught a fly ball to left. Hall got under a pop-up to third.
“Once we knew we were playing Masuk, we knew it would take one play or one hit,” St. Joseph coach Jeff Babineau said. “We had opportunities. Kat is a great pitcher. Credit to her. In key situations she made the pitch to get the out.”
Gallant said she threw a lot of curves, a few risers, and plenty of drops to shut down the potent Cadets. While Gallant was putting zeroes on the scoreboard. St. Joe’s pitcher Lauren Wasikowski was doing likewise. She gave up only one other hit (Isabel Viglione’s single in the fifth). Wasikowski walked one batter (with two down in the sixth). She struck out three.
“Lauren was spot on today. She moved the ball around. She gave us a chance to win,” Babineau said of his junior ace.
St. Joe’s put the tying runs on base in the sixth. Wasikowski singled with one out. Guilfoyle reached when she beat out a bobbled infield grounder. But Gallant put the third out in the book on strikes.
Gallant had shut out Mercy and East Haven in the state tournament. She brought an 0.28 ERA into the title game. That scoreless streak was threatened in the top of the first.
St. Joe’s lead-off batter Niamh Dougherty dropped in a fly ball behind second base to open the game. She hustled it into a double, but Gallant struck out the next two batters.
The Cadets’ Janelli Pratts walked to start the third. She went to second when a third strike got away. Maddy Fitzgerald walked on a 3-2 pitch with two outs before Gallant’s seventh strikeout ended the threat.
Barone said: “Our players knew what was at stake. They knew what they had to do; and they did it today. For my three seniors, their one loss for their entire high school career was against St. Joe’s. That was in the regular season. This was different. With such a young squad, I couldn’t be prouder. They worked hard all season for this.”
“Their offense is stacked. There are definitely threats. Between my catcher and my coaches, we figured out what pitches could work. We wanted to try our best. Whatever happens, happens.” — Masuk’s Kat Gallant
FOR THE RECORD
Masuk finished 24-0. It was voted the No. 1 team in the GameTimeCT preseason poll and has remained there throughout the season. It is 77-1 over the past three seasons. The run includes four straight South-West Conference titles.
St. Joseph, now 22-2, was ranked fourth in the latest GameTimeCT Top 10 poll. The Cadets are 7-4 in the state final. They defeated Griswold 5-2 in 2018. Other titles came in 2010 (Lauralton Hall), 2007 (Seymour), 2006 (Bristol Eastern), 1984 (Waterford) and 1982 (Haddam-Killingworth).