— Stamford HS Athletics (@TheStamfordAD) May 11, 2019
STAMFORD — It was exactly what a good non-league softball matchup should be.
Two talented teams feeling each other out like boxers early then displaying intensity late within the concept of all 21 outs are important.
The Stamford and Norwich Free Academy softball squads proved ready for the upcoming postseason Saturday as the Black Knights fashioned a 6-3 home triumph over NFA.
It was a battle highlighted by homers on both sides, a solid pitching duel and how thin the margin for error is in softball.
“The home runs (two by each team) showed that if your pitcher makes a mistake, the batters will make you pay,” said NFA coach Bryan Burdick. “The game had a postseason feel to it. In the end, we just made an extra mistake or two.”
NFA (11-4 overall) used first-inning solo homers by Hailee Schrader and Sara Cote for a 2-0 edge.
Stamford pitcher Kim Saunders settled in thereafter. The sophomore right-hander allowed just one more run while stranding six Wildcats the rest of the way.
“NFA showed they were great hitters in the first inning,” Saunders said. “After that I just pitched to my spots and relied on our defense.”
“Saunders made a concerted effort to keep her pitches outside,” NFA coach Burdick said. “Whenever she didn’t, we had opportunities to square the ball up and hit.”
Stamford (14-4 overall) rallied back against NFA senior left-hander Bailey Comeau in the bottom of the third. Brycelin Stalteri doubled, Dana Serricchio singled and Amy Covino crushed a three-run homer to right-center field.
“I walked my first at-bat and I saw a lot of the spots she liked to pitch to,” Stamford catcher Covino said. “So I felt comfortable in my second at-bat against her. I relaxed, saw a pitch I liked and went for it.”
NFA forged a 3-3 tie in the fourth on Sophia DiCocco’s leadoff double, a wild pitch and Hannah Daniewicz’ RBI groundout.
However, SHS’ Saunders had no intention of losing this pitching duel with NFA’s Comeau (12 strikeouts).
In the fifth with one out, Covino fanned but reached on an error on the third strike. Saunders followed with a two-run homer to left for 5-3. Stamford added another run on two singles and two walks.
“The homer felt really nice,” Saunders said.
The win meant that No. 8 Stamford and No. 6 NFA exchanged places in the Class LL Tournament seedings. To its credit, NFA doesn’t mind taking tough non-league road losses (East Haven, Southington, Stamford) to get ready for the postseason.
As for Stamford, the Black Knights remain 10-4 in the FCIAC and in the thick of the battle for the No. 3-8 league playoff slots.
SHS has won six consecutive contests and 11 of 13 since April 13. Stamford closes the regular season against Wilton and Trinity Catholic.
“I’m glad we got this game in (three postponements). We could see NFA again in the Class LL Tourney,” said Stamford coach Melissa Giordano. “Kim (Saunders) responded well after the two homers. She did her job. What I see is what you hope for at this point in the season. Each player doing her job. And everyone involved in getting the victories.”