Stamford softball holds off New Canaan
NEW CANAAN -- Complete games are about as common as July foliage for the Stamford High School softball team.
The pattern, for most of the year, has been for the duo to blossom most often in relief rather than starting roles. And when Joannou was nicked for a pair of runs by New Canaan in the bottom of the first inning Wednesday night, erasing most of a 3-0 lead, it seemed a season-long storyline would continue to play out.
But Joannou, after giving up two hits, settled down and did not allow another until the bottom of the 7th, when the Rams, trailing, 7-2, rallied for three runs. Then a little help from Schepps, a spectacular defensive play by the FCIAC's best player, and a return by Joannou to record the final two outs paved the way for Stamford's 7-5 victory.
It improved the Black Knights' record to 4-1 during a seven-game stretch in which they face six likely league playoff teams.
"I'm speechless; there's no way to explain the team effort," said Joannou, who gave up just three hits in 6ï»¿2/3 innings. "We haven't had too many complete games, but we find we bond well together as a team."
Joannou figured she was done for the evening in the seventh, but after Schepps got the first out -- more on that in a moment -- and walked a batter, Esposito brought Joannou back in to finish.
"Christina did a great job today," Esposito said. "She had command of her changeup. I'm happy with the team effort. We got kids to contribute in different ways. It's a good sign, and you knew (New Canaan) wasn't going to die."
A two-pitcher system, with the wrong personalities, can be a divisive element. It is a credit to both the diverse skill sets and positive outlooks Schepps and Joannou share that the partnership has been an asset rather than a liability for the Black Knights.
"If she finishes it, she finishes it, and if I finish it, I finish," Joannou said. "It doesn't matter. I just cheer her on."
The Black Knights (13-3, 12-2 FCIAC), who because of rainouts Wednesday remained in a tie with Westhill for the best record in the FCIAC, a half-game ahead of three other teams, had plenty to cheer about.
Gretta Buckley, who has been on a tear, went 3-for-3 and had what proved to be a critical two-run triple in the 6th inning, the decisive runs. Kelly DiPietro had a two-run triple in the first inning, two batters after Colleen Adams drove in a run with a triple, and Krista Robustelli added another home run.
But it was the play Robustelli made in the field during New Canaan's seventh-inning rally that dominated the postgame talk. With one run in, runners on the corners and no outs, leadoff hitter Collette Pellegrini hit a hard grounder up the middle.
Robustelli hustled over from shortstop to field the ball, spun and threw a missile to first just before Pellegrini's foot hit the bag. A run scored, but the flame to New Canaan's comeback was doused.
Esposito shook his head and said, "That was just a fabulous play."
Said New Canaan coach Danielle Simoneau: "It's part of the game. She's out there and you try not to hit it to her. She comes back, makes the play and throws out one of the fastest runners."
Amanda Frattaroli had an RBI triple in the seventh for New Canaan (11-5, 10-4) and Jordan Ventura drove in a run with a base hit.
Simoneau, the former Westhill star and noted local pitching coach, said she has worked periodically with Joannou in the past.
"She did a good job," Simoneau said. "She moved the ball around and kept us off balance."
Asked if she gave her hitters a scouting report, Simoneau said, "It's their responsibility to look for a pitch that is theirs and if they get it, use it."
Stamford's schedule gets no easier: it travels to St. Joseph on Friday and hosts Darien on Monday, two teams also in the hunt for the top seed in the FCIAC Tournament.
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STAMFORD 7, NEW CANAAN 5
STAMFORD 310 012 0--7 10 1
NEW CANAAN 200 000 3--5 3 2
Records: Stamford 13-3, 12-2 FCIAC; New Canaan 11-5, 10-4 FCIAC. Batteries: S--Christina Joannou (W, 7), Jordan Schepps (7) and Colleen Adams; NC--Ali Reilly (L) and Jordan Ventura. Triples: S--Colleen Adams, Kelly Dipietro, Gretta Buckely; NC--Amanda Frattaroli. Home runs: S--Krista Robustelli.