MERIDEN — When the winning run finally crossed the plate to end a softball game that seemed to take forever yet ended in the blink of an eye, there was awkward silence across a dusty, windswept field.
Players from Platt and New Britain had begun this marathon a week earlier, playing four-plus hours for only darkness to prevail. Each had scored 43 runs through six innings, with the game setting a state scoring record without producing a winner.
They returned Tuesday afternoon, nearly 170 hours later, to complete this historic, even controversial, game.
It took 13 minutes.
Brooklyn Cividanes was hit by a pitch from New Britain’s Cristina Velez and Adriana Aponte jogged home to score the winning run, giving Platt a 44-43 victory.
Confusion. Players looked around. No one moved much or said anything for seconds that felt like minutes.
“Well, that was anti-climactic,” a New Britain player finally shouted from the dugout.
And then Platt players went on with a mini-celebration near third base, having outlasted their guests in a game worthy of mention in national record books — and played under official protest by New Britain.
Platt ace Emily Hart was injured and not on the lineup card when the game began May 18. She was added to the lineup card Tuesday and allowed one hit while striking out two in the top of the seventh, the only scoreless frame of the game.
“We were hoping it would be under the same circumstances as last time, same players on the field, but it didn’t turn out that way,” New Britain coach Melissa Bahgat said. “So we did the best we could.”
Still, Bahgat added, “This is something they will talk to their children about for years to come, something they’ll hold onto forever, something I’ll hold onto forever.”
In the bottom of the inning, Platt loaded the bases on a walk by Aponte, a bunt single by Ariana Soto and a line-drive single by Victoria Talento. Cividanes was then hit in the leg and a game that was the talk of two towns and an entire softball community was finally over.
“I hate the way it ended,” Platt coach Jen Duell said. “Both teams fought so hard and to have it not be a hit, not be a play, to have it be a hit batter — the pressure on the pitcher there. It’s just absolutely not how I wanted that game to end. The girls fought ridiculously hard on both sides.”
According to records kept by the National Federation of High School Associations, the 87 combined runs is the third-most ever documented, behind a 95-run game in California in 2011 and a 94-run game in Massachusetts in 1983.
Posting such numbers means something wacky played out. The scorebook looked like a failed Etch A Sketch experiment. There were 68 walks issued, 11 errors made, 29 hits. The final inning was played in swirling wind and dust clouds. The entire experience was just …
“Insane,” Bahgat said.
“Insane,” Aponte said.
“Insane,” Talento said.
“Insane,” Duell said.
Bahgat is nearly nine-months pregnant. Her team had nothing to play for, having already been eliminated from state tournament qualification, yet everything to play for in pride alone. So New Britain made the bus trip — about 10 miles — for the continuation of something they knew might not last more than a few minutes.
And it didn’t, with a few pockets of fans or friends or parents watching from foul territory.
Platt had already qualified for the state tournament, but the outcome would affect their seeding. That, Duell said, is why she decided to insert Hart, who with a heavy fastball averages 12 strikeouts a game. Hart had been out since May 12 after taking a line drive off the shin, but she recovered during the six days that separated this epic game’s start from its finish.
Duell was curious about what the New Britain protest would bring. Her interpretation of the rule was that she could insert Hart and receive a “strike,” essentially an admonishment. After the game, she said there had been word that, perhaps, Hart was allowed to be inserted only if Hart sat for an inning. Duell was waiting for clarification and a ruling by the sport’s governing body.
Regardless, it would be difficult not to call both teams winners.
“I’ve been playing this game for a very long time and coaching for a long time, too, and have never had an experience close to this,” said Duell, on staff at Platt for nine years and head coach for two. “The only four-hour game I can remember ever playing, we sent four kids to the hospital due to multiple collisions and that’s why it was four hours because we had to stop for the ambulance. I’ve never played a straight four hours to then come back. It was almost surreal. And we had four more games between now and then and I had every coach and every umpire asking, ‘What? When? What happened?’ I don’t have words.”
People had questions, though, in the days that separated the start from the finish.
“Teachers, classmates, everyone — we were the talk of the school for a while,” Aponte said. “Everyone was like what happened? The only answer I had for them was, ‘I don’t even know.’ We were out here four and a half hours the first time, and we didn’t even finish.”
On Tuesday, Platt trailed 24-7 after New Britain scored seven runs in the top of the third. New Britain later scored eight in the top of the sixth, only to have Platt answer with six in the bottom of the inning to make it 43-43 as the sun disappeared.
“I’m really proud of my team,” said Liana Silva, New Britain’s junior catcher. “We played really hard. It was a back and forth game. It was just exciting. I can tell my kids one day. It stings because I love this game, and it stings for my team.”
“I’ve had people call me and text me and they just don’t believe it,” said Xandra Silva, a shortstop and pitcher and Liana’s twin sister. “It was just a really crazy experience, fun. It was like a once in a lifetime experience.”
Wild things happen in softball. There are mercy-rule victories, 10-run innings, virtually unhittable pitchers. By the time players reach high school, they’ve seen a lot.
Nothing like this, though.
“It felt like a roller coaster,” Talento said. “It was going, it stopped for a little because our energy got down, then it went up and then when we got to the end point and the roller coaster was like, ‘I’m not done.’ It was very weird.”