SOFTBALL: Anything in the air an adventure in Maloney’s win over Eastern

SOFTBALL: Anything in the air an adventure in Maloney’s win over Eastern

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MERIDEN — Wind is always a consideration for softball players and coaches at the William E. Dunn Sports Complex.

Then there was Friday.

Maloney coach Scott Aresco said Friday’s CCC tilt against Bristol Eastern was one of the windiest contests his team has played at Dunn during his two decades as head coach.

The Spartans withstood the wind as well as a second-inning rain shower to record an 11-6 win and improve to 8-2.

Maloney trailed 2-0 early and senior starter Milytza Perez stranded seven Lancers on base in the first three innings before the Spartans’ offense got going.

The Maloney bats camee to life with three runs in the third, two in the fourth, four in the fifth and two in the sixth. Although Maloney had some big hits, it was the small-ball sacrifices and squeezes that proved to be the difference.

“It was a much closer game than the score showed,” Aresco said. “We put the ball in play; we made them make errors. The wind helped us a couple times, but I thought we made some big catches in the wind that really helped us secure the victory.”

Eastern (3-3) was in control early. Alison Tellier put the visitors on top with a RBI single in the second inning. The junior leadoff hitter stroked a pitch up the middle to score Jazmyn Browne, who led off the inning with a walk.

The damage culd have been greater. On the Tellier hit, Maloney centerfielder Gracey Massicotte made a strong throw to cut down Eastern’s Ashley Serafin at the plate for the second out of the inning. 

After a walk that loaded the bases, Perez escaped further trouble by inducing a groundout to end the inning.

The Lancers had also squandered a chance in the first. Maloney catcher Maddy Lavalle erased  a Tellier leadoff double by catching her straying off second base after a pitch.

Serafin delivered a clutch two-out RBI single for Eastern in the top of the third inning, a frame that was extended by a Maloney throwing error. Serafin made it hurt with a line drive base hit to right that scored Browne to make it 2-0.

Brown walked twice and scored twice in the second and third innings.

Maloney came through with some two-out magic in the bottom of the third. Perez smashed a double to center and Taylor Trowbridge followed with a solid RBI single that scored Perez and cut the deficit in half, 2-1.

Freshman cleanup hitter Morgan Pelletier then slugged a deep fly ball to right that got caught up in a wind gust. The ball trickled passed the Eastern outfielder as Trowbridge and Pelletier circled the bases for a two-run inside-the-park homer that gave Maloney a 3-2 lead.

“The pop-ups in the air were a challenge,” Aresco said. “In pregame, we were hitting balls to the centerfielder that ended up in right field. Any ball hit in the air was a challenge. It was very adventurous today.”

Eastern tied the game in the top of the fourth on a triple by Jasmine Perez and a two-out RBI single by Riley Giblin. It was a pop fly in the infield. On a normal day, it would have been caught. On Friday, it fell in the infield as Perez crossed the plate.

Maloney reclaimed the lead with two more runs in the fourth. Avery Benigni started it with a walk and scored from first on a RBI double by Lizzy Barton (2-for-3).

There was a slight bobble by the Lancer outfielder that made Aresco's decision to send Benigni home a little easier. 

Massicotte dropped a suicide squeeze halfway down the first base line. She was tagged out, but it scored Barton for a 5-3 lead.

Maloney added insurance in the fifth inning with four runs. The Spartans sent 10 batters to the plate and kept the pressure on with aggressive baserunning and four successful bunts.

Perez (3-for-4) started the inning with a infield hit. She moved up to second base and scored on a bunt by Trowbridge that was booted by the Eastern infiefld.

Sophomore Haley Jensen later delivered a RBI single with the bases loaded and Isabelle Smith squeezed home Pelletier, who had walked, as Maloney went up 8-3. 

Lavalle capped the rally with a bases-loaded walk as the hosts went up by six.

Eastern responded with three in the top of the sixth to close within 9-6. Browne had a RBI single and two runs scored on a Maloney error on a ground ball off the bat of Makayla Antunes.

In the home half, Benigni capped the scoring with a two-run, two-out triple as Maloney went up 11-6.

“Avery came through with two big insurance runs,” Aresco said. “It was only a three-run game at the time and they could have easily scored three in conditions like this. Those were two big runs.”

Perez worked around a two-out single in the seventh to seal the win. The senior relied on her curveball and changeup throughout the game, particularly in big spots.

“It feels great to get the win, especially against a tough team like Bristol Eastern,” Perez said. “We all all came together as a team and kept having each others back throughout the game.”

Aresco said he will take an 8-2 record at the halfway point of the regular season.

“I’m happy with that, (though) I would love to be better than 8-2,” Aresco said. “We didn’t have Morgan at the beginning of the season and we are happy to have her back. If we get the bottom of the order hitting, we are going to be a very tough team to beat.”

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