NEW HAVEN – Gigi Speer had been in a hitting slump for the last couple of weeks, but she had a good day hitting inside Thursday after school.
It obviously paid off as Speer belted a triple into the gap in left-center to bring home the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning as Hopkins walked off with its first Fairchester Athletic Association softball title with a wild 10-9 victory over St. Luke’s.
After Sara Chung walked on a 3-2 pitch, Speer laced a pitch right down the middle that she was able to hit hard.
“I was just thinking I was going to get her in,” Speer said. “Drive the ball where Sara could score.”
Hopkins coach Cindy Chase said that she and her staff had been working with Speer indoors against the batting machine.
“She had been in a slump for quite a while,” Chase said. “She went crazy off the machine yesterday.”
Obviously, it paid dividends.
Yet, the only reason it took to the bottom of the seventh inning for the contest to be decided was that Hopkins had blown an early 8-3 lead in the contest.
St. Luke’s tied it in the top of the seventh when losing pitcher Emma Cropper tripled to left with one out. Maddie Sead then hit a comebacker to Chung on the mound, but Chung threw the ball over the head of Hopkins catcher Jess D’Errico as Cropper scored.
“That was a problem,” Chase said. “That was unfortunate, but I told them to trust in each other.”
It certainly didn’t look like the game would come down to seventh inning as a 38-minute first inning saw each team bat around and the two teams combine for 11 runs and 12 hits. After St. Luke’s scored three runs, buoyed by a two-run homer by Kendall Boege, St. Luke’s roared back with eight runs on nine hits.
Six different Hilltoppers drove in runs, with Speer hitting a two-run homer and Chung collecting two RBI on a triple of her own and she scored twice.
At that point, it looked as the game might turn into a blowout.
“Never with St. Luke’s. We know they can keep coming back,” Chase said. “They have big hitters and on any given day.
St. Luke’s coach Troy Haynie said he was confident at that point.
“I know we have a hitting ballclub,” Haynie said. “We’re gritty and we just had to keep playing our game.”
After that, Cropper settled down and allowed just one run over the next five innings.
“She only gets stronger as the game progresses,” Haynie said. “I was prepared to put my backup in the game.”
Meanwhile, the Storm chipped away at the Hopkins’ lead. Ally Ferris singled in a run in the second, a wild pitch plated another and then run-scoring singles by Courtney Newman, Boege and Cropper brought home three runs in the fifth to pull St. Luke’s within 9-8, setting up the wild seventh inning.
HOPKINS 10, ST. LUKE 9
(at New Haven)
St. Luke 311 003 1 — 9 12 2
Hopkins 801 000 1 — 10 14 1
Emma Cropper and Noelle Russell.; Sara Chung and Jess D’Errico. .
WP: Sara Chung. LP: Emma Cropper. 2B: (SLU) Courtney Newman, Noelle Russell; (HOP) Serena Ta.. 3B: (SLU) Ally Ferris and Emma Cropper.; (HOP) Sara Chung and Gigi Speer.. Hr: Kendall Boege (SLU); Gigi Speer (HOP); RBI: Ferris, Boege (3), Cropper, Newman (2) (SLU); Sara Chung (2), Speer (3), Serena Ta, Ava Pfannenbecker (2), Cece Giaimo, Annie Burtson (HOP);
Team records: St. Luke 7-3; Hopkins 10-2.