EAST HAVEN — Kristine Drust was not aware that she was one win away from the 150th of her career, instead she was focused on maintaining Cheshire’s standing at the top of the SCC.
As the final games of the season arrive, schedules have aligned to create a carousel of sorts for the top three teams in the conference.
No. 4 Cheshire, No. 5 East Haven, and No. 10 Amity are all lined up to play each other for the second time, beginning with Tuesday’s Cheshire at East Haven clash.
With a chance to separate itself further at the top, Cheshire improved to 13-0 behind the arm of Bri Pearson, beating East Haven 3-0.
Cheshire had handed East Haven its only loss of the season entering Tuesday, a 7-0 defeat in which Pearson no-hit the Yellowjackets.
“Every team comes out stronger the second time we play them,” Pearson said. “We stuck to our routine, played the game we know how to play and trusted ourselves in what we can do.”
Pearson completed the game allowing no runs on nine hits and one walk while striking out six.
East Haven’s game plan was evident early, jumping on pitches early in the count and breaking into the hit column in the first inning.
“We stressed the last couple of days that you have to swing the bats,” East Haven coach Ed Crisafi said. “Last time we struck out and kept looking at strikes. We outhit them but we didn’t get the big hit.”
Despite traffic on the base paths throughout, Pearson seemingly became more effective as the pressure mounted.
“Pressure situations are the kind of situations that you want to be in,” Pearson said. “That is what makes you better and makes the team stronger, and when we get out of those situations we can grab some momentum back.”
Pearson (12-0) is the only pitcher to have beaten East Haven this year and has done it twice, allowing no runs over 14 total innings.
“She is consistent,” Drust said. “She is composed and level. She has a fire and focus in everything that she does and in how she prepares. She reaches for excellence and tries to grab it every chance she can.”
Defensive consistency was the difference maker, one that could set Cheshire apart the rest of the way.
In a game where at least one batter reaches base in all but one half-inning, East Haven made five errors resulting in all three unearned runs while Cheshire was errorless.
“You can’t make five errors and give a team like that runs,” Crisafi said. “They had three unearned runs, we could still be playing.”
Tori Heaphy turned in a strong pitching performance, allowing three unearned runs on seven hits and four walks while striking out four in seven innings.
Cheshire’s Gracie Hemstock delivered the Rams lone RBI with a one-out single in the fifth to score Trinadey Santiago, who had reached on an error.
East Haven only trailed 1-0 entering the seventh inning, but with two out and two on, a missed infield popup extended Cheshire’s lead.
“This is the environment we have been looking for as we are getting close to postseason,” Drust said. “East Haven showed up today and we knew it was going to be a battle but our girls focused on keeping it simple and controlling what we can control.”
Drust’s 150th career win is a big one, giving Cheshire a two-game lead over East Haven in the SCC.
“Every part of this team has been working together,” Pearson said. “From the kids in the dugout making a lot of noise to those on the field, it is a big family that keeps working together and the bus keeps moving.”
There are no breaks in the near future for East Haven, which falls to 11-2 and is tied in second place with Amity.
East Haven beat Amity 10-9 in extra innings during the first meeting and will look to end the Spartans current five game winning streak.
“We have Amity tomorrow and that is huge for the SCC playoffs,” Crisafi said. “We will be alright for then; they will think about it tonight and come in with the same attitude tomorrow.”
On Friday, Cheshire and Amity will meet again. Cheshire won 4-0 win back on April 17th when the teams first played.