EAST HAVEN — The East Haven softball team started the season with three consecutive losses.
Since then, a young team has come together and the Yellowjackets (9-6) recorded their biggest win of the spring Wednesday afternoon, knocking off North Haven (3rd-ranked in the GametimeCT.com/New Haven Register poll), 6-3, in a Southern Connecticut Conference contest that broke a two-game losing streak.
“We’re battling to get into the SCC tournament with five teams battling for two spots,” East Haven coach Ed Crisafi said. “We knew between North Haven today and West Haven on Friday, we needed at least one win.”
It certainly wasn’t an easy victory as East Haven fell behind the usually invincible Lauren Card on the mound, 3-0, in the third inning.
The only offense in the game for North Haven came in the top of the second inning when Card and Peyton Davis singled with none out before Caitlin Ranciato belted a three-run home run over the left field fence. And with Card not having allowed more than three runs in any game all year, that deficit looked huge.
“The first game we hit her hard (a 2-0 loss last Thursday), so it’s not like we were down,’ Crisafi said. “We needed a couple hits to get us going and we got two runs, which gave us confidence.”
East Haven cut the lead to 3-2 in the fourth inning with a little bit of help of a couple defensive mistakes by the Indians. Lena Barthel doubled to lead off the inning. One out later, Becky Flynn hit a grounder to third, but North Haven tried to get courtesy runner Selena DeFelice at second, but they couldn’t and the Yellowjackets had two runners on. Jaime Gallo followed with a single to left and the ball got by leftfielder Olivia Peterson as two runs scored.
Card got out of that inning, but she ran into trouble again with one out in the bottom of the fifth. Winning pitcher Tori Heaphy reached on an infield hit, before sophomore second baseman Sam Franceschi belted a two-run homer that just cleared the fence in rightcenter that the gave the Yellowjackets a 4-3 lead.
“I was only looking to get on base,” Franceschi said. “I took it a step further with a two-run homer. We never gave up even thought we were down. That’s what really set us apart today.”
From there, Heaphy scattered just four hits the rest of the way and didn’t allow a runner past second base.
“Honestly, it was stressful,” Heaphy said. “Being down three runs against a good team like North Haven, it’s a lot of pressure. I had faith in my team we could hit and field and come back. I just had to pitch like it was 0-0.”
Meanwhile, East Haven picked up a pair of unearned insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth. Becky Flynn singled and then one out later, shortstop Alex Ferriouolo booted a ground ball to put runners on first and second. After Megan Roberts grounded out to move the runners up to second and third, Jillian Ayala hit a blooper off the end of the bat that kicked up the chalk just behind first base as Flynn and Kayla both scored to make it 6-3.
It was a little stunning considering that Card hadn’t allowed a run in nine of her last 10 outings
“It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen,” North Haven coach Karen Castagnola said. “She’s human. They have some good hitters and always give us a hard time.”
Heaphy allowed a double to Card to start the top of the seventh, but she retired the next three hitters to end the game.
“We knew that Tori would keep us in it,” Crisafi said. “We didn’t give up too many runs and we’re not a bad hitting team.”
It was the second loss in three days for the Indians (14-2). Their 13-game winning streak to start the season was stopped by Cheshire, 3-1, on Monday.
“We’re trying to get back to that spark that we had,” Castagnola said. “We haven’t been able to get on the field and practice in a long time. It’s not an excuse, but we need to get back to where we were before all this bad weather. We made too many errors today and didn’t play clean like we have been.”
EAST HAVEN 6, NORTH HAVEN 3
North Haven 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 — 3 8 2
East Haven 0 0 0 2 2 2 X — 6 11 1
Batteries: North Haven–Lauren Card (6-2) and Gigi Russo; East Haven–Tori Heaphy (1-0) and Lena Barthel
Team records: North Haven (11-2-0); East Haven (2-4-0)
Comments: East Haven: Sam Franceschi belted a go-ahead 2-run homer in the bottom of the 5th inning. Jillian Ayala drove in two insurance runs with a single in the bottom of the 6th inning. Lena Barthel and Tori Heaphy each had 3 hits. North Haven: Caitlin Ranciato hit a 3-run homer in the top of the 3rd inning. Lauren Card had 3 hits, including a double.