MIDDLETOWN >> Hand of Madison scored a run in the top of the 11th inning and hung on to hand Mercy a frustrating 6-5 Southern Connecticut Conference softball defeat that capped an equally frustrating 9-11 regular season for the host Tigers.
Mercy took a 4-2 lead to the seventh only to commit the cardinal sin of walking the first two lead-off hitters. The Baseball Gods made Mercy pay for that transgression as Hand rallied for three runs to take a 5-4 lead.
Hand (11-9) also walked the lead-off hitter in the home seventh and it also led to a run that tied the game at 5. But Mercy’s offense went silent the rest of the way. Hand’s game-wining, 11th inning rally was a single by Maddy Yaggi (2-for-5) and a two-out RBI double by Lily Gesh (3-for-6).
Mercy got the lead-off hitter on in the home 11th when losing pitcher Bri Sawicki singled. But Taylor Reardon failed to get the bunt down and Ally Rosa bounced into a double play to end it.
“The girls work hard every day, they try their best, but we just can’t get over the hump,” Mercy coach Jen Piazza-Laffin said. “We hit at times, we play good defense, but we just can’t string hits together to make it work. Then there are those lead-off walks. It’s just very frustrating.”
Hand got two in the first and yes, leadoff hitter Hollis Wivell (2-for-5) walked. One run scored on an error by first baseman Sarah Flanagan and the other on a ground out by Sam Pavano (2-for-5). Winning pitcher Abby Gesh was in command through four innings, surrendering just two hits and striking out four. But it came apart in the fifth.
Reardon singled and after an out, Gianna Pirolli was hit by a pitch. After a passed ball, Tiff Mangiameli (2-for-4) smacked a two-run single to tie the game. Mangiameli came around to score on a wild pitch. A two-out double by Michelle Theilgard and a single by Danielle Lajoie (2-for-5) produced the fourth run of the inning and Mercy led 4-2.
Mercy couldn’t seal the deal.
Back-to-back walks to Yaggi and Ali Buller opened the seventh. Lily Gesh’s triple tied the game and Pavano’s double gave Hand the lead.
Mercy got a run in the seventh on a Lajoie’s RBI single, but that was it for the Mercy offense.
“What a barnburner,” Hand coach Mike Niekrash said. “No other way to describe this one. Either team could have won, both teams played great defense, yet both issued lead-off walks. I can’t say how much lead-off walks hurt. Some 80 percent of them score.
“But my young pitcher [Abby Gesh] did very well and her sister, [Lily Gesh], my catcher, had a big day. She knocked in three of our four final runs. They’re our Sister Act. The win was important because it improves our position in the SCC playoffs and in the state tournament.”
For Mercy, there will be no SCC playoffs and that hasn’t happened in a long time. Mercy will play in the Class L state tournament.
HAND 6, MERCY 5 (11)
Hand 200 000 300 01 — 6 6 0
Mercy 000 040 100 00 — 5 8 0
A. Geshwin and L. Geshwin; Bri Sawicki, Sarah Flanagan and Kam Geysen .
WP: Abigail Geshwind. LP: Sarah Flanagan (). 2B: (HD) L Geshwin 2; (ME) Michelle Theilgard. 3B: (HD) L Geshwin.
Comments: L Geshwin went 3-for-6, two doubles, a triple and two RBIs for Hand. Tiff Mangiameli and Danielle Lajoie both had two hits and two RBIs for Mercy.