By Tom Forde
It's the pressure that comes with a game hanging in the balance that calls for players to shine their brightest. For New Canaan starting pitcher Jamie Schlim, that moment came in the bottom of the seventh inning Tuesday at Staples with two outs and the tying run on third base. The Wreckers were threatening to send it to extra frames, as Katherine Friend stepped to the plate. Then, with seemingly all of the game's pressure sitting squarely on her shoulders, Schlim calmly reared back and notched her eighth strikeout of the game to secure a 4-3 Rams victory.
The win was New Canaan's seventh in its last eight contests, and according to head coach Danielle Simoneau, it showed just how far her team has come since the beginning of the season.
"We had some costly errors today, and if we had those same errors occur earlier in the season, it would have likely led to even more mistakes," Simoneau said. "But today just shows that we're not that young team anymore. These girls are fighters that refuse to give in regardless of the situation."
The error that Simoneau alluded to came in the bottom of the fourth inning when New Canaan (8-5) held a 2-0 lead, as Staples (6-6) was in the midst of a rally with runners on second and third. It appeared that the rally was to fall short when Gillian Birk hit a high bouncer right back to Schlim, but as her throw to first base sailed high, the game was suddenly tied at 2-2. Yet, Schlim didn't hang her head or dwell on the error for one moment, instead proceeding to strike out the side and put the miscue behind her.
"It's frustrating to have that error occur, but you can't beat yourself up or focus on it," Schlim said. "You just have to shake it off and move on. But it's also a huge weight off your shoulders when you have your offense pick you up like I did today."
The Ram bats did in fact get those runs right back top of the fifth inning, as senior co-captain Colette Pellegrini drilled a Birk offering to deep right center for a two-run home run to regain the lead.
"It was a huge hit in that spot, but I wasn't thinking about the score. I was just trying to hit the ball as hard as I could," Pellegrini said. "I could hear their coach mentioning how I struck out my first time up and that gave me even more motivation to hit the ball as hard as I could. I had no doubt once we got that lead back that Jamie would bring home the win."
Schlim did in fact protect the lead, even when Staples managed to cut its lead in half by plating a run on a fielder's choice. However, the Wreckers failed to score again and dropped only their second home game of the year.
"This is a group of hard working girls with great potential, and we've built a solid chemistry over the course of this season," Schlim said. "In this second half of the season, we're starting to realize that potential, and if we put it all together, there isn't a team in the league that we can't compete with."
New Canaan 4, Staples 3
NC 101 020 0- 4 6 2
S 000 200 1- 3 4 2