New Canaan nips Darien in nail-biting softball battle
Depending on which side you were on, it was a thrilling victory or a tough-to-swallow defeat at Darien High School on Monday afternoon. The visiting New Canaan softball team pulled out an edge-of-your-seat 5-4 win which came down to a bases loaded situation in the bottom of the seventh.
New Canaan pitcher Cydney Ventura escaped the jam to help the Rams remain unbeaten. The Rams improved to 3-0 and the host Blue Wave lost its first game after three straight victories to begin the campaign.
The game featured escape-artist pitching, clutch hitting and close plays on the base paths -- including a tag-out at home plate.
"That was a really big win for us. We kind of showed the school that we're no joke -- we're here to win," said New Canaan centerfielder Lindsey Schmid, who hit a two-run homer. "This is a really big stepping stone for us."
Darien has dominated the rivalry in recent years. DHS Coach Nick DeMaio believes the last time the Rams beat his club was four or five years ago.
New Canaan took a 4-0 lead in the third inning behind Jordan Ventura's two-run double and Schmid's two-run home run to straight away center field.
Darien battled back to within 4-3 in the bottom of the inning. Nicole Buch drew a one-out walk and stole second, Darien pitcher Jessica DeMaio helped her own cause when she hit a crisp single to right and Olivia Gozdz followed with a two-run triple to right-center to close the Wave to within 4-2.
Courtney Bell added a run-scoring grounder and reached first on an errant throw. New Canaan escaped more Darien damage when shortstop Brittany Overacker knocked down a grounder and quickly flipped the ball, with her back to second base, to second baseman Courtney Rodgers for a force out and New Canaan pitcher Cydney Ventura induced a pop fly for the third out.
DeMaio bounced back with an easy one-two-three fourth inning, but Cydney Ventura shut down the Wave in the bottom of the fourth and New Canaan got a crucial insurance run in the fifth. Rodgers and Jordan Ventura had back-to-back hits to produce a run for a 5-3 New Canaan lead
Darien got to within a run again in the bottom of the sixth on DeMaio's RBI single. Courtesy runner Sammy Wood tried to score from first on Gozdz's drive to the right field wall, but Schmidt threw in to Rodgers who relayed to catcher Jordan Ventura for the tag on a bang-bang play to preserve the lead.
"I had to take a chance there to score that run," said Nick DeMaio, who also serves as the third base coach and sent his runner. Earlier in the inning, Hornick, who had led off with a single, was tagged out at third when she tried to take advantage of a wild pitch.
Darien loaded the bases on singles by Courtney Bell, Brittany Osborn and Hornick, the latter two knocks coming with two outs, but couldn't get the game even.
Both teams flirted with danger with some occasionally shaky fielding.
"It just goes to show you what these girls can do," said New Canaan Coach Danielle Simoneau, adding that her team members put errors behind themselves and stayed focused.
"Coming in, we were really confident. We were really determined to win," Jordan Ventura said.
Darien out-hit New Canaan, led by Gozdz's 4-for-4 performance, 11-5.
"We missed a lot of opportunities and New Canaan is too good of a team to not take advantage of your opportunities," Nick DeMaio said.
New Canaan is looking at a busy week, beginning with tonight's road game in Norwalk at 4 p.m. The Rams will also play at home against Norwalk on Saturday, at home against Stamford on Monday, at home against Wilton on Wednesday and on the road against Bridgeport Central on 4 p.m.
After suffering its first deafeat of the season, Darien will try to get back to its winning ways when it travels to take on Harding today at 3:45 p.m. The Blue Wave also play at home against Norwalk on Monday and at home against Fairfield Ludlowe on Wednesday.