MIDDLETOWN — A chorus of screams greeted Dominique Highsmith’s screaming line drive into the gap, and what followed was the sound of victory.
Highsmith drove a 2-1 pitch to right-center and circled the bases with two outs, capping a three-run, seventh-inning rally that pushed Middletown past Glastonbury 10-9 in a CCC softball game at Moody School on Monday.
The Central Connecticut State-bound senior was mobbed by her teammates at home plate.
“I know it was a hitter’s count, so pretty much anything around the plate, just try to drive it hard out of the infield,” Highsmith said. “I was just looking to get on base. (The contact) felt like nothing. It was great, it felt amazing. I just had to leg it out at that point.”
The crescendo of Highsmith’s three-hit game also made her the winning pitcher. She came on in relief of Niya Earl in the fourth and held the Tomahawks to one run on one hit over the final 3 2/3 innings.
— Dario Highsmith Jr (@Highsmith6OD) April 8, 2019
Highsmith did not leave the field without first getting a hug from her coach, Sal Morello.
“She’s a strong kid, so when she puts the bat on the ball, it goes,” Morello said. “It doesn’t surprise me that she hit a ball like that. That’s what Division 1 kids do — make plays when they have to, and they hit when they come up in big spots.”
Middletown (3-2) has had a win-loss-win-loss-win start to the season. Morello, who has eight starters back from last season’s squad, hopes the comeback will kickstart the Blue Dragons toward consistently strong play.
“We were saying from the fourth inning on, when we were down 7-2, just keep chipping away, chipping away. Don’t give up,” Morello said. “We’re going to hit these girls, and to their credit we started having some really good at-bats. The girls stayed with it and never gave up, and we gave ourselves a chance in the last inning.”
To Morello’s point, Middletown sent five batters to the plate in the seventh. Four hit the ball hard and all five put it in play against Tomahawks reliever Madison Garrity.
After Highsmith set Glastonbury (1-2) down in order in the top half, pinch-hitter Alley Latina got the comeback started by beating out a grounder toward the hole at third.
Fellow sophomore Makayla Thompson lined out to center field for the first out, but senior Janelle Franklin, who made two uncharacteristic errors at second base in the middle innings, atoned by driving a ball over the head of right fielder Katelyn Eagen. The triple trimmed the deficit to 9-8.
“She’s been consistently one of our best hitters the last two years,” Morello said. “She gives more good at-bats than anyone on the team. She knows how to work a count. Two strikes don’t faze her. She handles the bat great, and she showed a little pop there. She’s one of the most underrated players I’ve seen.”
Franklin scored the tying run on Isabella Spada’s fly ball to right. Highsmith’s drive on an outside pitch from Garrity had just enough speed to elude Eagen’s outstretched glove.
The final-inning reclamation made up for defensive mistakes, a baserunning blunder and the fact Earl did not have her best stuff in only her second start of the season.
“There is plenty to correct for sure, but it’s good to know we made mistakes, didn’t play your best game but still beat a quality team,” Morello said. He added, “We have to use this to spring us forward here to playing better softball. I’ve told them, ‘My expectations for this team are high.’ We didn’t plan on being here at 3-2 but we are, but we’ll get better as long as the players want to get better.”
Highsmith also scored three runs, Franklin scored twice, Carley Gessaro reached base four times and Bri Saldivar drove in two runs for Middletown. The Blue Dragons are missing center fielder and leadoff hitter Grace DeRita, who has a sprained ankle and is expected to be out for at least the next two weeks.
Garrity and Glastonbury starter Brooke Tracy, a freshman, combined for 11 walks.
“That’s a killer,” coach Karen Costes said. “(Eleven) walks is not easy to defend. I give 100 percent credit to the Middletown team. I know how deep they got in the (Class LL) tournament. Last year I watched them play Trumbull and they are fighters, and we talked about that here. ‘They’ll never give up.’ (But) we gave them a lot of chances.”
Monday’s baseball games involving area teams were postponed and rescheduled for Tuesday with the exception of Middletown’s game at Farmington. It will be played Thursday at Tunxis Mead Park.
On Tuesday, Cromwell hosts Hale-Ray; Portland hosts Old Lyme; Coginchaug visits East Hampton; Haddam-Killingworth visits Valley Regional; and Xavier visits Sheehan. Game time for all is 4 p.m.