The Wreckers had just reclaimed a 3-2 lead in the fifth inning when Mills stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and nobody out. She'd been hitless in her two previous plate appearances, and her coach noticed something amiss with Mills' batting stance.
"I would have my hands out too far and she just told me to bring them back a little," Mills said, recounting the adjustment that helped her smack a two-run single to push Staples ahead 5-2. "It was the smallest difference, but it made a big difference in the at-bat today."
The Wreckers scored the game's first run in the third inning. Shortstop Nikki Bukovsky led off with a single and then stole second. She took third on a bunt by center fielder Crissy McCarthy and scored on squeeze by second baseman Emily Lustvader.
Norwalk answered right back in the fourth inning, scoring two runs on the strength of five singles. Shortstop Tori Dugan got things started. One out later, center fielder Allison Hall singled, as did right fielder Nicolette Kassimis. Dugan scored on a hit by Shannon O'Malley, while Hall scored on a hit by Kasey Hogan.
The bases were still loaded, but Burke pitched out of further trouble by striking out the next batter and inducing a weaker grounder to end it. The missed opportunities contributed to Norwalk's undoing, coach Elaine Gratrix said.
"I think we did some good things, didn't bunch enough of it together. It wasn't consistent," she said.
Norwalk fell to 1-3, while Staples ran its record to 4-0, thanks largely to the pitching of Burke.
"We are relying on her every single game," Holland said of her junior right-hander. "We warm up three pitchers, but we rely on Katie to dominate and through the first four games she has done a phenomenal job -- keeping batters off balance and mixing it up. And we've had solid defense, so she isn't having to strike everyone out."
Norwalk retained its 2-1 lead until the fifth inning when Staples exploded for four runs -- all before an out was recorded. Gabby Perry opened the inning with a walk and was pushed around the bases after consecutive singles from Bukovsky and McCarthy. With the scored tied 2-2, Lustvader brought Bukovsky home with a single to give Staples a 3-2 lead.
After a walk to Connors loaded the bases, Mills stepped to the plate with her batting tip in tow.
"There's a few things I've been working on to fix my swing, and my coach just told me to do this and you'll get a hit. And that's what happened," Mills said.
Staples added two more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Norwalk narrowed the deficit to 7-3 in the seventh, but was unable to do much else.
STAPLES 7, NORWALK 3
NORWALK 000 200 1 -- 3 12 1
STAPLES 001 042 x -- 7 11 1
Records: Norwalk 1-3, Staples 4-0.
Batteries: N -- Aly Brown (L), Mariah Ventrella (6) and Mallory Rochefort; S -- Katie Burke (W) and Maggie Mills.
Doubles: N -- Kasey Hogan.