WEST HAVEN – Marisa Pacapelli and her senior teammates vowed they were not going to leave Biondi Field Thursday evening without a postseason bid in hand. Pacapelli and company lived up to the challenge.
Behind Pacapelli’s go-ahead single in the fifth inning and sacrifice flies by seniors Jolie Morrell and Olivia Quagliani, West Haven earned a spot in the CIAC state tournament with a 3-2 Southern Connecticut Conference victory over Jonathan Law on Senior Night.
“We definitely all took a part in this,” Pacapelli said after her team improved to 8-12. “This was a huge game for us. We knew a loss ended our season. We just wanted it and we tried so hard. We didn’t want it to end. It all comes down to mental toughness. Joe (Morrell) talks about it all the time. We were not going to get down. This is just a great feeling.”
After Law took a 2-1 lead with a pair of runs in the fifth inning, the Westies showed the mental toughness Pacapelli mentioned in the bottom of the inning by scoring twice off Law pitcher Aubrey Bepko to take the lead for good.
Juniors Madison Watts and Julia Bothwell led off the inning with singles and both advanced into scoring position on a sacrifice by freshman Makenna White. Quagliani’s sacrifice fly to center scored Watts and Pacapelli’s two-out single to right scored Bothwell with the eventual winning run.
“We challenged the kids,” West Haven coach Joe Morrell said. “We told them the coaches could not be the only ones energized to get there. The kids responded. Kial Watts is seven for eight in her last two games and the one time she did not get a hit, the kid made a great catch to rob her. All the seniors contributed in a big way. Marisa (Pacapelli) came up with the big hit. It was huge. She hit the ball the other way. That was a nice job by her.”
Before the Westies could celebrate a postseason bid, there was one final hill to climb. That hill nearly turned into a mountain in the seventh as Law used a West Haven error and a dropped third strike with two outs to put a pair of runners on base for cleanup hitter Amanda Leone.
West Haven senior pitcher Kial Watts battled and eventually prevailed, getting the dangerous Leone to ground out to Madison Watts at third to seal the victory.
“This is the type of game you always want to be in,” Law coach Melanie Paolini said after her team fell to 11-9. “We had some tremendous outfield play tonight from Erin Saley and Megan Smith. We got some hits, but not the timely hits. Kial (Watts) did an awesome job out there for them. She is a true competitor. It is nice to watch her play.”
West Haven took a 1-0 lead in the first inning as Kial Watts, who had three hits in the game, led off with a double, moved to third on a sacrifice by senior Alexis Severino and scored on Jolie Morrell’s sacrifice to left.
“We knew how bad we wanted it,” Jolie Morrell said. “We came out with so much energy. We had a meeting with everyone and just said no matter what, we are going to stay up and win this game. It is a great feeling to get in, but even more so to be able to get in with my dad.”
The Westies could not extend the lead, stranding Kial Watts at second in the second, two runners on in the third, and seeing Kial Watts get thrown out at the plate in the fourth on a perfect throw from Smith in left to Leone at the plate on a single by Morrell.
Law took a 2-1 lead in the fifth when Gege Romero’s double scored Smith who walked with one out, and Saley’s double scored Romero.
Madison Watts, Julia Bothwell and Alissa Tonucci each had a pair of hits for the Westies. Romero and Saley Led Law with two hits and one run batted in apiece.
Kial Watts tossed a five-hitter for West Haven, striking out five and walking four in the win.