STAMFORD — Both the Stamford and Ridgefield softball teams were red-hot coming into the FCIAC softball tournament. When they met in the quarterfinals on Friday, something had to break.
Stamford belted four home runs and received a spectacular performance from sophomore Jordan Rossi out of the bullpen as it overcame Ridgefield for a 10-7 victory in the conference quarterfinals Friday at Stamford High School.
Fourth-seeded Stamford (17-4), which has won nine straight games, will face either No. 1 St. Joseph or No. 8 Danbury in the semifinals at Sacred Heart University on Monday. St. Joseph and Danbury are playing their quarterfinal game Saturday at noon.
For the seven seniors on the Stamford roster, it’ll be a second straight trip to the FCIAC semis at SHU.
“There’s definitely a sense of urgency for them,” Stamford head coach Melissa Girdano said of her seniors. “It doesn’t matter if we fall behind, they never feel like they’re out. They’re definitely confident no matter what the score is.”
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While the Knights’ bats pounded out 12 hits, it was Rossi’s performance in the pitching circle which stole the show.
The two teams had combined for 13 runs on 16 hits when Rossi entered with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the fourth. She retired 10 of the 12 batters she faced, allowing no hits and one walk while striking out six to get the win.
“It’s what we hoped was going to happen,” Giordano said. “She picked up her teammate (starter Kimberly Saunders) and she shut them down. I’m very happy with her performance.”
“Our defense is very good and we were making a lot of plays,” Rossi said. “The cheering also really helped and I just felt very confident and I knew I could do it. They’re a great team, but I felt like our energy was up today and we were going to have a good game.”
Fifth-seeded Ridgefield (12-9) traded punches with Stamford early on, but couldn’t erase the 10-7 deficit against Rossi over the final three innings.
— GameTimeCT (@GameTimeCT) May 17, 2019
Still, the Tigers have come a long way since the early part of the season.
“We started off our season 0-5 and we got into the conference and we were 2-7,” Ridgefield head coach Lauren Greywacz said. “Then we got onto this hot streak of winning 10 of the last 11 games. We proved that we have heart, we have character and we have drive. We our a tough team and a team to reckon with. This is how the No. 4 and No. 5 seed goes — this is the kind of game you get.”
Stamford’s big inning was the bottom of the fourth, when it scored five runs to turn a 7-5 deficit into a 10-7 lead. The inning featured three extra-base hits, including an RBI double by Amy Covino and back-to-back solo home runs by Abby Hogan and Rossi.
In all, the Knights hit four round-trippers, including a solo blast by Diana Magarian in the first and a three-run bomb by Covino in the second.
“I told my pitchers I didn’t envy them today,” Greywacz said. “That’s a tough nine to go against. Every pitch has to be on. I think they did a good job. It only takes one inning.”
“It was being aggressive, putting the ball in play and putting pressure on the other team,” Giordano said of the Knights’ offense. “We were trying to make things happen.”
Ridgefield led three times in the early innings.
A sacrifice fly by Skylar Arent made it 1-0 in the top of the first, with Stamford’s Magarian making an over-the-shoulder catch in deep center to end the inning.
Magarian then homered in the bottom of the inning to tie the game.
The Tigers scored on an RBI single by Sabrina Grizzaffi in the second, but Stamford jumped in front with an RBI hit by Bryce Stalteri and Covino’s three-run HR in the home half of the inning.
Ridgefield sent 10 hitters to the plate in the top of the third to take a 6-5 lead — Sarina Sheth’s two-run single was the big hit — and tacked on one more run in the top of the fourth to make it 7-5.
The Knights, however, took the lead for good with their five-spot in the bottom of the fourth and Rossi shut down Ridgefield the rest of the way.
While Stamford moves on in the FCIACs, Ridgefeld will start preparing for the CIAC Class LL tournament which begins on May 28.
“Just stick with our philosophy,” Greywacz said of the Tigers’ approach. “For defense, stay intense, stay up, stay talking. For offense, get on, execute and move them around. That’s our philosophy and if we do that, we’ll be good.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Jordan Rossi, Stamford. The sophomore picked up the win by pitching 3 1/3shutout innings in relief and allowing no hits with one walk and six strikeouts. At the plate, she was 3-for-4 with one of Stamford’s four home runs.
“The coaching is great and we work on our hitting every day, so we have a lot of momentum going and we hope to continue it. We went (to the semifinals) last year and it’s great that we’re going back. We hope to get to the finals this year, but it’s one game at a time.” — Stamford’s Jordan Rossi