NORWALK >> Much is to be said about the way a team ends the regular season. Just ask the West Haven softball team.
Winners of their last four regular season games and five of their last six, the Westies went into the Class LL state tournament as the 17th seed. With 14 wins, one would think the Westies would get a home game.
Such was not the case as West Haven had to travel to face No. 16 Norwalk in the opening round of the state tournament in Norwalk.
Behind the hitting of Kailey Carrano, who finished with three hits and two runs scored, West Haven posted a 6-3 victory over host Norwalk and advanced to the Class LL second round where it will face top-seeded Norwich Free Academy Wednesday on the road at 4 p.m.
“This is a big win for us,” Morrell said. “When you win 14 games, you do not expect to go on the road and face another 14-win team. But that is exactly what we did. Last year, we lost a lot of kids from a team which we thought we had a good team with. These kids have just filled those spots and done a great job.”
While Carrano led the way with three hits, freshman Ivy Santos chipped in two hits and scored twice, while Kristal Rivas also had two hits and drove in two runs.
Santos went the distance in the pitching circle. She allowed three earned runs on eight hits, while walking four and striking out three.
For the Westies (15-7), the first-round game was all about getting on the board first and just building on that lead. West Haven had runners on base in just about every inning and opened up the game with three runs in the third inning.
Leading 1-0 after Rivas singled to score Veronica Lynn in the first inning, West Haven extended the lead to 4-0 in the third inning.
Carrano led off with a double to right, Makenna White walked to put runners on first and second, and Santos singled to right to load the bases. Rivas followed with a single to center to score Carrano for a 2-0 lead, and Dianesse Rodriguez singled to center to score a pair to extend the margin to 4-0.
“This one is really important for us,” Carrano said. “We proved ourselves today. We did what we had to do. Tomorrow is another day. We will play our game. Getting off to an early lead was really big. We got the lead and just had to keep it going.”
The three runs in the third were big for West Haven as Norwalk (14-7) came back with a run in the bottom half of the inning. Brenda Garcia let off with a single, moved to second on a ground out, and scored on Katie Sciglimpaglia’s single to right with two outs.
After both teams squandered scoring opportunities in the fourth, the Bears got within 4-2 in the fifth with one run. Samantha Troetti started the rally with a one-out walk, moved to second on a grounder, and scored on Dina DiBlasio’s double to left. Santos got out of the inning when she got Jessica Otto to pop out for the final out.
West Haven got that run back in the sixth as Carrano singled to center with one out, and scored on White’s double to right for a 5-2 lead.
“I thought that run was big,” Morrell said. “They had just scored a run, and we were able to get that run back. We were worried because we were giving up too many runs. We got a couple with the late rallies, and they help. That is a situation you don’t want to go into the seventh up by just one run.”
The Westies tacked on an insurance run in the seventh when Santos led off with a double and scored when Sadie Roberts tripled to right.
Norwalk did not go down without a fight as Skyler Suda opened the seventh with a single, went to second on a ground out, and scored on a single by DiBlasio to get Norwalk within three.
Santos did the rest for West Haven as she recorded a strikeout and a grounder to end the game and send West Haven to the second round.
DiBlasio led Norwalk with two hits and two runs batted in.