MIDDLETOWN >> Maddy DeRita’s bases-loaded single down the left field line in the bottom of the ninth gave Mercy a 3-2 win over East Haven in the Southern Connecticut Conference softball quarterfinals Wednesday at Tiger Field.
Defending champion Mercy will play Hand in the semifinals on Friday (7 p.m.) at West Haven’s Biondi Field.
Mercy came from behind twice to force extra innings, then won the game under the International Tie-Breaker Rule, the first time Mercy has seen that rule applied.
Simply put, the rule requires that in the ninth inning, the batter who made the last out the inning before, is placed on second base to start the inning. The three outs begin after that. East Haven had its chance in the top of the inning, but couldn’t get the run across as all three batters flied out.
“In that situation, if you can’t get a bunt down, you’ll lose,” said East Haven coach Ed Crisafi.
In the home ninth, Mercy loaded the bases with one out – and did get bunts down – then DeRita hit a rocket far over the left fielder’s head that at any other time would have been a triple or a home run. But a single did the trick.
“We played a fantastic game,” said Mercy co-head coach Marji Sklar-Levine. “We battled all game and never gave up. The kids put the bunt down when we needed to and Maddy came up big. We played our hearts out and beat a very good team.”
East Haven, a Class M school, came in riding an 11-game winning streak and with an overall record of 16-4, the same as Mercy.
“I thought we played well,” said Crisafi. “We just didn’t execute our sacrifice bunts as well as Mercy did and that was the difference. This was a game between two evenly matched teams. While winning the SCC would be nice, it’s the state tournament that really is what counts. We’re in Class M, which means we won’t be seeing SCC teams and that’s just the best league in the state by far.”
East Haven took a 1-0 lead in the fourth on a single by Jenna Gaudioso and a triple by Kara Hanson. The Easties might have had a bigger lead, but a controversial interference call on an East Haven runner in the third deprived the Yellowjackets of a run when shortstop Astin Donovan booted a ground ball with a runner on third.
However, the home plate umpire said that Donovan was interfered with attempting to make the play, although there was no actual contact between the runner and Donovan.
Mercy tied the game in the fifth. With one out Olivia Fiascanaro singled, was bunted up and scored on a single by Donovan. Donovan actually smoked a triple, but was declared out on appeal for missing second base.
East Haven took a 2-1 lead in the sixth when Laura Anderson tripled home Giovanna Russo, who had walked.
But the Tigers tied the game again in their last at bats. It was an inning in which it was better to be lucky than good.
Pinch-hitter Mary Adametz started things with a soft liner that just cleared the third baseman and landed on the infield dirt. Fiascanaro followed with a pop fly in no man’s land behind the pitcher and in front of the shortstop for a thank-you single. Tiffany Mangiameli then beat out a bunt and the Tigers – on three hits that traveled a combined 110 feet or so – had the bases loaded with nobody out.
Donovan bounced into an out at the plate. Then DeRita, the star this day, hit a sacrifice fly to right to tie the game.
Brianna Sawicki went the distance to get the win, scattering seven hits.
“Brianna hung in there,” said Sklar-Levine. “She just threw strikes and we made the plays behind her, including some great plays. East Haven is a very good team. Their pitcher [Talia Loda] is very good. That’s a solid team “
Mercy and East Haven each had three errors, but none figured in the scoring.
Sklar-Levine said if she had her druthers, she’d rather see the game decided in the traditional way and not via the tie-breaker rule.
“We put the rule in eight years ago,” said Crisafi. “Back then we had some great pitchers – not that we don’t today – but then we’d have games go 15, 16 and 17 innings. We figured we had to do something, so we instituted that rule. We won a game under the rule a couple years back, so I’ve been on both sides now.”
Donovan, DeRita and Fiascanaro each had two hits for the Tigers (17-4).
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