CROMWELL >> Cromwell has had some tremendous success over the years on the baseball diamond, the basketball court, the soccer pitch and the football field.
Softball? It’s been an afterthought in this city of champions. But that’s about to change.
The Panthers, winners of just one game two years ago, moved a step closer to a postseason berth with a 3-1 Shoreline Conference victory over Westbrook on Friday.
Cromwell (7-10), which has won more games this season than the last two years combined, needs one win in their last three games (Wilcox Tech, Morgan, Goodwin Tech) to qualify for both the Shoreline and state tournaments.
It will be the Panthers first state tourney appearance since 2010.
“I’m very pleased,” said Cromwell coach Angelo Morello. “This has been a big turnaround. Overall, it was a team effort again. It’s been like this all year on this field. We’ve played everybody pretty solid at home.”
It was also Senior Day and that made it extra special for Panthers seniors Malorie Leone, Taylor Polizonis and Nicole Poole.
“They’re going to be three girls that are going to be really hard to replace,” said Morello. “Their freshman year there were five or six of them and they were the only three who stayed with the program.”
Leone, the winning pitcher, struck out five and allowed just five hits against Westbrook. She also went 2-for-3 with two runs scored.
Poole and Polizonis had the other hits as the Panthers could muster only four hits against Knights sophomore Hannah Bibisi (seven strikeouts).
“We were very fortunate to win,” added Morello. “I thought Bibisi was outstanding.”
Cromwell scored two runs in the bottom of the first when Leone led-off with a double and Polizonis singled. Polizonis went to second on a wild pitch and with runners on second and third Megan Fazekas blasted a flyball to centerfield where the Knights’ Rachel Russo made a terrific catch. Leone, however, ran home without tagging up.
But on the Knights’ bid for the double play, the ball was thrown past third, which allowed both Leone and Polizonis to score.
The Panthers extended their lead to 3-0 in the fifth inning. With two outs, Leone reached on a bunt single. Poole then drilled a single to left and when the ball was slow getting back to the outfield, Leone raced home.
“We were in the game the whole time,” said Westbrook coach Caitlin Eichler. “It was unfortunate we made those errors.”
The Knights (6-12) spoiled Leone’s shutout bid in the seventh when freshman Biance Ferrucci drew a walk and Becky Lee Bennett tripled to left, scoring pinch-runner Lili Dickey.
“It’s been sort of a roller coaster year,” said Eichler. “We’ve had our highs and our lows. We have a very young team but they’re holding their own in the conference this year.”
As have the Panthers.
“It was a really good win,” said Morello. “Pitching and defense won the game today. And a little timely hitting.”