There was little separating the Staples and Daniel Hand softball teams in their Class LL first round matchup in Madison on Monday afternoon, despite the difference in regular season win totals. The No. 5 Tigers (17-4) came away with a 9-7 win to extend their season and end the Wreckers' campaign at 8-13.
The win wasn't secure until the final out as No. 28 Staples almost completed a stunning really over the final two innings. Trailing 9-4 entering the top of the seventh inning, Staples immediately got to work. The first three runners reached base, including an RBI single by Maya Mandell to cut the lead to 9-5. Mandell would score on a double steal before Lindsay Kiedaisch had an RBI single to trim the lead to 9-7.
With Kiedaisch on first base, Gabby Perry hit a hard shot right to the Tigers third baseman, who caught the line drive and fired to first to complete the double play and end the game.
"The team did amazing I think," Staples coach Sara Holland said. "After our senior game -- a 6-5 win over Nonnewaug May 20 -- we really gelled. We knew we could stay in this game and try to win it. I think we did fantastic."
"Seven runs against a 16-4 team, that's amazing," added Wreckers assistant David McCartney.
Trailing 7-1 entering the top of the sixth, the Wreckers rallied for three runs. Staples loaded the bases before Chrissy McCarthy (2-for-4) hit a fly ball to the outfield that was misplayed. All three runs scored and Staples was back in the game.
The Tigers added two runs in the bottom half of the sixth that would prove to be crucial. Leadoff hitter Madeline Yaggi walked, stole second and stole home, and Katie Omdahl had an RBI single to push the lead to 9-4.
Staples had a chance to plate more runs early in the game, but stranded six runners through the first four innings as Hand built a 3-1 lead. Tigers freshman Hollis Wivell went 3-for-4 with a 2-run home run that put her team up 2-1 in the bottom of the third inning.
"It was about being able to execute with runners on," Holland said. "(Hand) did that when their runners got on they were able to produce runs. I think early in the game we didn't get those runs in and that was the difference."
Staples starting pitcher Gillian Birk, a freshman, pitched effectively into the fifth inning before the Tigers' bats began making solid contact. Hand pounded out five hits in the fifth to increase its lead to 7-1. Katherine Burke pitched the sixth inning for the Wreckers.
"(Birk) did a wonderful job as a freshman this year," Holland said. "We were able to produce two more pitches out of her. She was able to add more to her game and I think that's when we saw more effectiveness."
Birk added two hits for Staples, including an RBI single in the third inning to give the Wreckers a 1-0 lead. Staples had nine hits Monday.
"By the end of the year you could see (Birk) was our most productive hitter hitting out of the No. 4 spot," McCartney said. "She can hit with power; she's such a strong kid."
After reaching the eight-win mark with one game to spare, the Wreckers fell one or two plays short of pulling off a monumental upset.
"Our last three games were three of our best games of the season," McCartney said. "A come-from-behind win down 5-1 (against Nonnewaug), then we played Trumbull to a 2-0 game (May 23), which is spectacular; and then this game against a No. 5 seed as a No. 28 seed."
Daniel Hand 9, Staples 7
STAPLES 001 003 3--7 9 3
HAND 002 142 X--9 11 1