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Beaten by small ball and speed in a pair of regular-season losses to rival Joel Barlow of Redding, Newtown High School’s softball team turned the tables on their South-West Conference counterparts to manufacture an eight-inning 4-3 win over the Falcons in the conference tournament semifinals at Stratford’s DeLuca Field on May 24.
The Nighthawks will try to make the third time the charm against another rival when they face another rival they fell to twice in the regular slate, top-seeded and unbeaten Masuk of Monroe, in the Friday, May 25, championship, also at DeLuca; first pitch is at 7:30 pm.
Second-seeded Newtown lost a coin flip and played as the away team, batting first, against the third-seeded Falcons in the semis. Newtown broke the tie in the top of the eighth inning when courtesy runner Shannon Jackman beat the throw home with a slide following Shannon Cheh’s single to right field. Jackman ran for Tess Mubarek, who began the frame with a walk, and she was advanced to second base when Sara Kennedy bunted for a single.
In all three meetings with the Falcons this spring, Barlow leadoff hitter and speedster Abby Ota sparked run-scoring rallies with bunt singles, including twice in the playoff contest.
“I said ‘you know what? We’ve got speed and we can do it too,’” Newtown Coach Joanna Closs said of having Kennedy put one down.
The Falcons capitalized on Ota’s ability to put the ball into play and her speed, despite Newtown pulling the infield in, and seized a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
Newtown struck for a trio of runs in the third for a 3-1 lead. Jackie Moccio led off with a hard triple inside the left field line. Kendra Saunders fouled off four 2-2 pitches before working a walk and stole second base. Katie Goyda then smashed a two-run triple to left-center to turn a one-run deficit into a one-run lead for the Hawks. Cheh added a two-out opposite field single to right for the third Newtown run.
Ota bunted for a hit, stole second, and scored on a hit by Claire McCann in the bottom of the third and it remained 3-2 Newtown until the sixth when McCann singled and took third on a two-base error, and scored on a two-out single by Rebecca Mauro.
Newtown managed to nab Ota attempting to bunt for hits two more times in the game, sparking plenty of enthusiasm from the Nighthawk bench given how much trouble Ota has caused them this season.
The Falcons had two runners on base with one out in the bottom of the eighth but couldn’t capitalize as Kennedy struck out two batters to end it.
“I was hoping the third time’s the charm and I guess it was,” Closs said.