With no luck scoring despite making plenty of contact with the ball, the Staples High softball team utilized a small-ball strategy in the late innings on Friday evening.
It didn't hurt that the Wreckers had their fastest players in the right spots to execute, manufacturing just enough offense to pull out a win over Fairfield Warde.
Nikki Bukovsky's bunt single in the bottom of the seventh inning plated Chrissy McCarthy and sent the Wreckers to a come-from-behind 3-2 win over the Mustangs at Greens Farms Elementary. With the win, the Wreckers (8-6) qualified for the Class LL state tournament.
"My hitting wasn't doing so well today," Bukovsky said. "I had got a bunt down before (in the first inning) and I knew we could do it, especially with Chrissy as a fast runner at third base. I definitely think our high intensity helped us, everyone on the bench. Everyone communicating really helped."
It was a cruel blow for the Mustangs, who nearly escaped another jam in a game full of them. Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh, Katherine Friend began the rally with a one-out single for Staples, before a costly error aided the Wreckers' cause. Gabby Perry hit a pop fly to center, but a lack of communication between the center fielder and second baseman resulted in a dropped ball.
"We fought hard the whole game, in the seventh inning it got away from us a little," Mustangs shortstop Michelle Treglia said. "A few errors here or there, we were trying to pull it back at the end but it was just that one hit that got us."
McCarthy then reached on a fielder's choice, but there were two outs and Staples was down to its final batter. The Wreckers, however, had one more option to turn to in pinch-hitter Emma Moskovitz.
"It just happened that (Moskovitz) didn't start today," Staples coach Sara Holland said. "I was going to use her in this type of scenario. She has confidence and I knew she could come through."
Moskovitz drove in the tying run with a single to left field, which also allowed the runners to advance on the throw. That set the stage for Bukovsky's heroics.
"We had a meeting right away and I asked if (Bukovsky) was ready to do a squeeze bunt for the win and she said `Yea let's do it,'" Holland said. "Between (Bukovsky) and (McCarthy), once we got the ball down we were going."
After stranding nine base runners through five innings, the Wreckers finally broke through in the sixth trailing 2-0. McCarthy started the rally with a bunt single. She reached third on a stolen base and wild pitch, then scored on Bukovsky's single, cutting the deficit in half.
Staples nearly broke the game open from there, but Mustangs starting pitcher Gabby Natoli prevented any further damage. The freshman walked two batters to load the bases but got Maggie Mills to ground out after falling behind in the count 3-0.
"We are so proud of (Natoli); being thrown in there as a freshman," Treglia said. "She has great composure -- through the whole game she pitched her game to each batter. We made some mistakes behind her but we were really proud of her."
Warde scored twice in the top of the fifth inning despite not generating a hit. Kenzie Burns walked with one out before a pair of errors got two runs on the board.
"We were right in the game the whole way, it was going to come down to one more hit on each side, one more base runner on each side," Warde coach Gary Quiricone said. "That was the difference in the game."
Bukovsky was stellar in the circle, yielding just two hits and striking out five.
"(Bukovsky) did fantastic; she's so athletic," Holland said. "She's pitching really hard lately and keeping the score down for us. As long as the defense holds, usually we can come away with the win."
Ryan Lacey is a freelance writer
STAPLES 3, FAIRFIELD WARDE 2
WARDE 000 020 0 -- 2 2 3
STAPLES 000 001 2 -- 3 11 2
Records: Warde 5-9, 4-8 FCIAC; Staples 8-6, 6-6.
Batteries: W -- Gabby Natoli (L) and Brianna West; S -- Nikki Bukovsky (W) and Maggie Mills. Highlights: S -- Bukovsky went 3-for-4 and drove in the winning run. Shannon Connors went 2-for-3 with a walk. Emma Moskovitz tied the game in the seventh with a pinch-hit two-out double.