TRUMBULL -- The St. Joseph softball team got burned by New Canaan once before, suffering a heart-breaking loss to the underdog Rams in last year's FCIAC championship game.
The way the Cadets hit the ball Tuesday afternoon, it was obvious they were not going to let lightning strike twice.
The top-seeded Cadets collected 15 hits and scored all of their runs over the final four innings, posting an impressive 11-0 victory over defending champion New Canaan in the FCIAC quarterfinals at the St. Joseph High School field.
Senior Tori Ceballos went 3-for-4 with a triple, walk and two runs scored, junior Katie Gardella had three hits and two RBIs while junior shortstop Lauren Pitney collected three hits with a double and three runs scored to lead St. Joseph (20-1), which will face No. 5 Stamford Wednesday in the FCIAC semifinals at Sacred Heart University.
Stamford advanced with a 6-5 win against No. 4 Ludlowe.
St. Joseph had already registered a 16-2 victory over New Canaan (11-10) earlier in the regular season, but the revenge factor was still there for the Cadets.
"We were definitely happy to be playing them," said Ceballos, one of only three seniors on the St. Joseph roster. "Last year, it was really tough walking off the field after losing to them. This year, we had unfinished business."
As New Canaan loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the first inning on consecutive singles by senior Colette Pellegrini, freshman Rachel Keshin and twin sister Molly Keshin, St. Joseph head coach Jeff Babineau couldn't help but flash back to last year's title game.
"There was a little bit of that early on," Babineau said. "But at this point of the season, we know what we can do. It's all about limiting the other team's runs and keep swinging the bats."
St. Joseph did that and more as sophomore Nicole Williams worked her way out of the first-inning jam without giving up a run, stringing together two clutch strikeouts before getting the final out on a popup. Williams also went 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
"That was huge," Babineau said. "It's great for Nicole to get her confidence up."
Williams allowed just two hits over the final six innings, finishing with eight strikeouts and no walks. The Cadets backed her with plenty of offense, breaking through for three runs in the third after getting held in check over the first two innings by New Canaan senior Ali Reilly.
Pitney, who also had another flawless game at shortstop, woke up the offense with a double off the fence in left and scored the first run on a suicide squeeze bunt by freshman Madeline Meier. After that, the Cadets did it the conventional way, scoring three more in the fourth to take a 6-0 lead before adding two in the fifth and three in the seventh, including a two-run triple by senior Mickaela Mallozzi (2-for-4).
"We hit the ball really well one-through-nine," Ceballos said. "I'm confident in my entire team that we can hit no matter who's up there."
This was a totally different team from the one that won the FCIAC title last season. The Rams started five freshmen and one sophomore.
But for New Canaan head coach Danielle Simoneau, it all boiled down to execution. The Rams left eight runners on base, including five in scoring position, and made four errors on defense.
"We just don't make the adjustments," Simoneau said. "We don't back our pitcher up, and you can't win games like that."
St. Joseph 11, New Canaan 0
NEW CANAAN 000 000 0--0 5 4
ST. JOSEPH 003 324 x--11 15 2
Records: New Canaan 11-10, St. Joseph 20-1.
Batteries: NC-Ali Reilly (L) and Molly Keshin; SJ-Nicole Williams (W) and Lauren Blose.