ORANGE >> The heart of the order delivered again, and it allowed North Branford to capture the Division I Little League softball championship.
Brianna Raccio, the North Branford cleanup hitter, broke a 4-4 tie with an RBI single in the bottom of the fifth inning, and then Abby Spivey followed with an RBI single of her own, to lift North Branford to a 7-5 victory over Redding/Easton Monday at Stankye Field.
Two batters after Spivey, winning pitcher Angelina Ramada drew a bases-loaded walk to give North Branford a comfortable lead headed into the final inning.
“When we got runners on base, the middle of the order has been doing the job,” North Branford manager Pete Ramada said. “Our hitters come through when they have to. They’re good in pressure situations.”
Angelina Ramada allowed an RBI single by Julie Kinahan in the top of the sixth inning, but Redding/Easton stranded runners on second and third when an infield ground out ended the game.
North Branford, which won the District IV championship for the fourth straight time this season, advances to its second straight Section I final. It will play the Division II winner on Thursday at 6 p.m. at Memorial Field in Simsbury.
“I’m so proud of them,” Pete Ramada said. “There wasn’t a lot expected out of us coming into this. Milford was really tough in our district and we thought we would have a hard time getting by Milford. But once we got by them we thought we could be really good.”
Redding/Easton took a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning, highlighted by RBI singles by pitcher Claire McCann and Sabrina Lalor. But Ramada, who scattered nine hits and struck out four, settled down after the first inning.
“The first inning, she was a little rattled,” Pete Ramada said. “But she gave through. She was fighting a stomach bug the last two days. I almost didn’t start her. But she warmed up well, and I decided to pitch her.”
North Branford then began to chip away at Redding/Easton’s lead. A two-run single by Kaylee Velez cut the lead to 3-2 in the second inning. North Branford scored on an error to tie the game at 3 in the third, and then Raccio stole home as part of a double steal to give North Branford a 4-3 lead later in the inning.
An RBI single by Catie Boudiette tied the game at 4 in the fifth before North Branford scored the three runs in the bottom of that inning.
“I think we should be proud of what we did getting this far,” Redding/Easton manager Kevin Ota said. “This particular group has been here in this sort of divisional/sectional game before, so we kind of expected to be here. There’s an element to us expecting to sort of get over the hump, if you will, and take the divisional title, so it’s disappointing from that standpoint. But I am proud of the kids. We always focus on effort. I think the effort and attitude was there, so we can be proud of the effort.”
Raccio scored three times and had two of North Branford’s five hits off McCann, who walked four and struck out 12. Amy Raucci threw a runner out at home from center field in the first inning and North Branford later turned a double play.
“They’ve really played great defense,” Pete Ramada said. “That’s what we’ve tried to preach to them. So far, so good.”