Robustelli the lead of many headliners as Stamford holds off New Canaan
STAMFORD -- Krista Robustelli hears the question so many times now that it is more a source of amusement than annoyance.
Will she or won't she?
Will Robustelli, the do-everything shortstop for the Stamford High School softball team, consider being more than a three-month softball player and pursue a college career in the sport. Robustelli is non-committal, mostly because she doesn't know the answer.
The one question Robustelli doesn't have to confront? Can she?
Robustelli put on a show at home Saturday afternoon, making three spectacular plays in the field, the last for the final out of the game with the bases loaded, leading the Black Knights to a 3-1 win over New Canaan. Robustelli, a junior, also had a pair of doubles and scored each time.
"That was a little close," Robustelli said with a smile after. "It seemed like we definitely could have had a bigger lead. But the pitchers did a good job and we got out of jams."
"That spin move, are you kidding me," said New Canaan coach Danielle Simoneau, the former Westhill pitching star long familiar with Stamford softball. "She reminds me a lot of Maria Zezima, the way she reacts and moves," added Simoneau, referring to one of the best players in Black Knights history.
After the second out, New Canaan later loaded the bases in the fifth when Katie Krueger hit a grounder that upon reaching Robustelli took a soft, high hope. Robustelli adjusted and got the out despite the odd bounce.
In the seventh, Jordan Schepps came on in relief of Joannou with two on and one out in the seventh. It was just Schepps' second relief appearance but the first in a dire situation. After issuing a walk to load the bases, Schepps struck out Krueger, then induced Kuhn to hit a slow roller. Fortunately it was to Robustelli, who threw a bullet to first to end the game.
"You've got to be ready for balls all over," Robustelli said. "They have fast girls. You have to play the whole field."
It was another confidence building effort for Schepps, who gives Stamford a strong reliever in the bullpen.
Asked if she was nervous coming in, Schepps smiled and said, "Nah. I think it's more motivating under pressure. My job was to finish it, but Christina pitched amazing the whole game. This was really a team effort."
Indeed, the closeness of the game belied the number of contributions Stamford (9-5, 8-4 FCIAC) got from a variety of players. Tori Hynd, who has been on a hitting tear, drove in Robustelli in the first with a triple to rightfield and scored on an errant relay throw. She drove in Robustelli again in the third with a rocket that was dropped by the centerfielder.
Joannou allowed eight hits over 6ï»¿1/3 innings but did a masterful job of pitching out of trouble. Claire Kaptinski beat out a pair of bunts, and Courtney Kuczo, who will now be the team's third pitcher because she has solidified the infield at third base, had four assists and a putout.
"We're growing up," Stamford coach Tony Esposito said. "Everyone did something. I'm really glad the way the girls made plays."
It was an important game for both teams, which entered the day tied for the sixth-best record in the league standings.
Cydney Ventura pitched a seven-hitter for New Canaan (8-6, 7-5) but also was effective stranding runners.
"Pitching-wise they both did an excellent job," Simoneau said. "The other team just did a better job hitting than we did."
Jordan Ventura and Kuhn had two hits apiece for the Rams. Kuhn scored the team's lone run on Abby Jenkins' ground out in the third.
Though New Canaan has struggled recently on offense, Simoneau came away encouraged.
"Today was a better offensive day for us, just not when we needed it to be" she said. "We were more aggressive today in the latter part of the game."
Stamford, which is an intriguing team capable of being a postseason sleeper, will know more about itself in six days, following a week that includes games against Norwalk (10-3), Darien (11-2) and St. Joseph (9-3).
"This will prove where we stand," Esposito said. "This week will help let us know about our chances."
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STAMFORD 3, NEW CANAAN 1
NEW CANAAN 001 000 0--1 8 2
STAMFORD 201 000 X-- 3 7 2
Records: New Canaan 8-6, 7-5 FCIAC; Stamford 9-5, 8-4 FCIAC
Batteries: NC--Cydney Ventura and Jordan Ventura. S--Christina Joannou (W), Jordan Schepps (7, S) and Colleen Adams.
Doubles: S-- Krista Robustelli 2; Triples: S--Tori Hynd.