WEST HAVEN >> A two-run deficit. Three outs remaining. One of the state’s best in the pitching circle.
The odds in the bottom of the seventh inning were certainly stacked against Cheshire, which entered the SCC tournament final against Lauralton Hall without a blemish on its record.
But somehow, someway the top-seeded Rams kept their unbeaten season in tact. Cheshire scored three times in the final inning, including the game-winning single by Hannah Salvietti that capped a dramatic rally, and the Rams captured the SCC title with a 4-3 victory over the No. 2 Crusaders.
It was the second league title, and first since 2002, for Cheshire (23-0), which is ranked second in the Register Top 10 Poll.
“Amazing, I don’t know how else to describe it,” said Salvietti, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player. “It’s a great feeling knowing that I can do that for my team.”
— GameTimeCT (@GameTimeCT) May 28, 2016
Alex Czarkosky drew a walk off Lauralton Hall senior pitcher Ireland Miessau to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning. Pinch runner Rachel Kaplan scored on freshman Mia Juodaitis’ double to cut the Crusaders lead to 3-2. Juodaitis later scored on an error to tie the game. That set up Salvietti’s heroics.
“They’re just resilient,” Cheshire coach Kristine Drust said. “They just don’t let down. That goes with our leadership, and just our game plan at never looking back and always looking to our next at-bat, and always looking to the next play.
“I think when you do that, I think that it keeps energy on your side no matter what the score is, no matter what your last two at-bats looked like.”
Lauralton Hall (18-5) scored twice on errors in the second inning to take a 2-0 lead. Cheshire cut that lead in half on an RBI single from freshman Bri Floyd in the third. A run-scoring single by sophomore Emma Larke pushed the Crusaders’ lead to 3-1 in the fourth.
Lauralton Hall left nine runners on base, including six in scoring position.
“It’s hard to hit their pitcher (junior Abby Abramson),” Lauralton Hall coach Amanda Acampora said. “I’m happy with three runs, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with three runs.
“They came back strong in the seventh inning. What are you going to do? They’re a good team, you can only hold them off for so long.”
Miessau used an array of pitches and consistently worked the inside of the plate to right-handed batters to much success. She allowed six hits, walked four, hit another and struck out nine. Two of the walks came in the seventh inning and both came around to score, including the game-winner.
“They had seen her a lot at that point (in the seventh inning),” Acampora said. “Ireland threw a good game, she threw a tough game. I thought the strike zone changed in the seventh, if I’m being honest. And then, you know, they executed. They executed.”
Salvietti finished with two hits, as did Juodaitis.
Abramson, the SCC player of the year, struggled early but finished strong. She gave up just six hits, walked five, hit one batter and struck out 12.
“I had a bit of a rough start,” Abramson said. “But I made a decision that I needed to be better for my team, and that’s what I tried to do.”
Cheshire was making its first trip to the final since losing to Hand in 2010.
“It’s so meaningful,” Abramson said. “We’re so happy to build on the great tradition of Cheshire softball. It’s an amazing team, and I am just so happy to be a part of it.”
CHESHIRE 4, LAURALTON HALL 3
(at West Haven)
Lauralton Hall 020 100 0 — 3 4 1
Cheshire 001 000 3 — 4 6 2
Ireland Miessau and Maura Keary; Abby Abramson and Megan Hodgdon.
WP: Abby Abramson. LP: Ireland Miessau. 2B: (LHA) Christiana Cottrell; (CH) Mia Juodaitis. RBI: Larke (LHA); Bri Floyd, Hannah Salvietti, Mia Juodaitis (CH);
Team records: Lauralton Hall 18-5; Cheshire 23-0.
— Mike Pucci (@MikePucciNHR) May 28, 2016