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Masuk High School’s softball team went into the regular-season finale against visiting Newtown having scored in a double digits nine games in a row, and in a dozen contests overall this spring.
Then they faced Newtown’s Sara Kennedy, who pitched the Nighthawks to a 3-0 victory, allowing just two hits while baffling the Panther hitters with her wide array of pitches.
Kennedy throws a fastball, drop, rise, changeup, and curveball. Masuk, which scored 17 runs in each of its previous two games, and plated 24 and 32 in football-like outbursts against its weakest opponents, couldn’t muster any offense against the Nighthawks.
“Big game for us. Good pitching gets good hitting out and I think we played flawless defense for two games,” said Newtown Coach Bob Guererra, whose Nighthawks were coming off a 4-0 blanking of New Fairfield, at Treadwell Park, the night before.
The Panthers got the bat on the ball, striking out only three times against Kennedy but, as Guererra noted, the Newtown defense was sharp.
“They made all the plays,” Masuk Coach Leigh Barone said.
The game remained scoreless into the fifth when Newtown plated two runs. Kamdynn Moroney doubled, Shannon Cheh singled, and Jackie Moccio hit a sacrifice fly for the first run. Emily Bell singled and Tess Mubarek walked to load the bases for leadoff batter Mackenzie Macchiarulo, who worked another base on balls, forcing in a run.
In the seventh, Newtown again manufactured a run with small ball. Moccio doubled on a two-strike count, Bell moved her to third on a groundout to second, and Mubarek ripped a two-strike RBI single to center field.
It was the regular season finale for both teams. Masuk finishes at 17-3 overall and 11-2 in South-West Conference action, and Newtown improved to 12-8 and 9-4.
The Panthers, behind the pitching of sophomore Sam Schiebe, edged Newtown 2-1 in nine innings back in April, in a nonconference clash. This time around, freshman Madison Procyk got the start.
Barone said her objective was to give the Nighthawks a different look and potentially go back to Schiebe if the teams meet in the SWC tournament. Newtown is the two-time conference champion, and Barone anticipates seeing the Hawks later in the conference playoffs.
The Panthers are one of the top seeds in the bracket and the Nighthawks, Guererra said, are locked in as the sixth seed. But it’s a deceptive seeding given the Hawks were without standout Kennedy, due to an injury, during a tough stretch of games.
“It’s good to be back,” said Kennedy, who has tossed shutouts in four straight games, including a no-hitter with 13 strikeouts in a 21-0 win over Stratford on May 10, in a five-inning, mercy rule triumph. Kennedy also tossed a two-hitter with nine strikeouts in a 7-0 win over Bethel on May 12, before shutting down New Fairfield.
Against Stratford, Megan Goyda had a perfect day at the plate with five hits, including a triple, drove in two runs, and scored four times; Moroney had three hits, including two doubles, six batted in, and scored four times; Bell collected four hits, four runs batted in, and scored twice; and Macchiarulo had three hits, including a triple, two RBI, and two runs scored. Rachel O’Grady, Moccio, and Cheh all had two hits and combined for six RBI.
Against Bethel, the Hawks scored one in the fifth and three each in the sixth and seventh innings. Macchiarulo hit a two-run home run, Kennedy helped her own cause with a double, single, two RBI, and run scored; Goyda doubled twice, walked, drove in a run, and scored; O’Grady had an RBI double, single, and two runs scored; and Kendra Saunders added a double and run scored.
In the win over New Fairfield, Kennedy allowed three hits and fanned 15 batters. Newtown scored all of its runs in the fourth inning. An RBI single by Cheh and RBI double by Moccio highlighted the inning. Bell also drove in a run, and a walk and pair of New Fairfield errors helped Newtown out.
The Nighthawks will start the playoffs on the road on Saturday. Guererra said the win over Masuk gives his lineup an extra boost of confidence.
“You beat a top team like that, anybody you come up against you have confidence,” the Newtown coach said.
“I’m so excited to go into SWCs,” Kennedy added.