STRATFORD — Sam Schiebe warmed up prior to the Class L final at DeLuca Field, and told her coach Leigh Barone that “I’m feeling it, I feel good today.”
That was both accurate, and bad news for the opposition Friday night.
The senior had already joined Masuk’s long list of stellar pitchers prior to this year, but she sparkled again when it mattered most. Schiebe fired a two-hitter with 15 strikeouts to send the No. 2 Panthers to the Class L title with a 2-0 win over East Haven. Schiebe was named the game’s MVP and tossed her second straight shutout in a state championship.
“She’s a great pitcher and being in this situation before for a third time, she has that experience,” Barone said. “She just knew she had to go out and give all she had because East Haven was solid offensively.”
The Panthers plated two runs in the bottom of the sixth to seal the title. It’s the fifth in program history to go along with three straight SWC titles for a talented group of seniors.
“It’s awesome,” Schiebe said. “I know I can speak for all my seniors: we wouldn’t want to end it any other way. I couldn’t ask for a better team.”
Both teams started the sixth with the top of the order of at the plate, but it was the experienced Panthers who delivered again. Senior Meg McFarland laced a double to left field, and three batters later Maddie Procyk plated her with a sac fly to center.
“We didn’t really hit until the sixth inning so it took us a while to get with the program,” McFarland said. “We were able to just do what we had to do, get a rally going and eventually score.”
In the top of the frame East Haven had its chance to score, getting runners on second and third with two outs. But Brooke Clancy crushed a ball to center that was caught by McFarland.
“Second and third with two outs and Brooke Clancy hits a laser to center field,” Yellowjackets’ assistant Jeff Crisafi said. “Off the bat I thought it was more in the gap, and I look up and McFarland is right there catching it. That took the wind out of our sails a little bit and they come up with a leadoff double. That’s the game right there.”
Other than that it was a classic pitchers’ duel between Schiebe and East Haven’s Tori Heaphy, who had the Jackets’ only two hits off her counterpart. The sophomore yielded just four hits herself in another commanding performance. Each team fired zeros for 13 of the 14 half-innings.
“They came in really hot this entire state tournament,” Schiebe said. “They were scoring a lot so we knew we had to hold them to limited runs. We mixed pitches, (catcher Montana Killoran) really stepped in this year and did a great job.”
The loss ended the tremendous run by the 16th-seeded Yellowjackets, who beat Hand, No. 1 St. Joseph, Barlow and Brookfield to reach the final. East Haven will be a serious threat next year as most of its talented lineup returns.
“It’s a good taste because you don’t really know about it until you get here,” Crisafi said. “You get that taste and it’s right on the tip of your fingers, but you don’t come home with it and it builds more motivation for next year. Are we disappointed with the result? Of course. But in 10 years they’re going to look back on the run we went on.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Sam Schiebe, Masuk: Will join University of Bridgeport next year with McFarland, and will get to continue their story there.
“It’s so satisfying because every single game we played in the state tournament has been a tough win and a battle,” said Masuk senior Gretchen Bunovsky, who was walked intentionally during the sixth. “To end up winning the whole thing with good games the whole way feels so good.”
“These last two weeks were Tori Heaphy’s coming out party,” Crisafi said. “The SCC and we knew how good she was, it was just about the whole state knowing. Now the whole state knows who Tori Heaphy is, with the way she’s been swinging the bat and dominating in the circle. She pitched great tonight.”