NORTH BRANFORD >> The North Branford softball team’s rise in the state’s Top 10 poll is like a hit song that keeps climbing the charts. The Thunderbirds’ maestro is senior pitcher Lindsay Golia. And when Hale-Ray put the tying runs on base in the last inning of Thursday’s terrific Shoreline Conference battle, Golia made more sweet music by ending the game with a pair of strikeouts.
“We had opportunities so lots of credit to Lindsay,” Hale-Ray coach Suzy Miner said. “She’s a great pitcher and that’s why they’re the top team in our conference.”
Behind some timely hitting early and Golia’s clutch pitching, North Branford remained unbeaten with a 5-3 victory over the upset-minded Noises at Totoket Park.
“They gave us a scare,” North Branford coach Nick DeLizio said. “It was a much needed scare to kind of expose what we need to work on. Hale-Ray’s one of those teams that will beat you with small ball and speed and we were ready for it.”
The T-birds (11-0) got key RBI hits from Sabrina LeMere and Meghan Golia in the first two innings against Hale-Ray starter Katrina Ceceri. LeMere’s clutch two out, two-run double to center staked Golia to a 5-0 lead in the second.
Hale-Ray (6-3), which made a spirited run to the Class S semifinals a year ago, clawed back with single runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
Skylar Rapuano’s sacrifice fly scored senior Cailey Botteon (2-for-4) in the fourth and sophomore Callie Burke (2-for-3) tripled and scored on an infield error in the fifth. The Noises’ small ball strategy paid off again in the sixth when Botteon reached on an infield hit, moved to second on Nicole Dombroski’s sacrifice bunt, and raced to third on a wild pitch. Rapuano then made it 5-3 with another infield hit.
In the seventh, Burke led off with a single and Nicole Trapp drew a one out walk before Golia ended things with consecutive strikeouts.
“It took us a good one-and-a-half times through the lineup to be able to get our timing right on (Golia),” Miner explained. “I think that was the difference. We were able to force them to play defense a little bit with our small ball. I’m happy that we battled all the way through and we didn’t give up. I just wish we had come out right from the beginning that way.”
Olivia Hemstock, Angelina Ramada, Meghan Golia and LeMere (three RBIs) had two hits apiece. Lindsay Golia (9-0) scattered five hits, walked one and struck out nine, none bigger than the last two.
“Lindsay battling through at the end was great,” DeLizio said. “She’s a competitor.”
With 11 straight wins to open the season, North Branford has climbed to No. 6 in the Register/GameTimeCT poll.
“It’s exciting,” DeLizio said. “It’s exciting for the program and it’s great for the town and great for the youth movement to see that. I’m proud of what the girls are doing but it’s not where you start, it’s where you end. The ultimate goal is defending the conference championship and, obviously, making a very deep run in the states.”