Darien softball blanks Staples
Big games often come down to one moment. In the Darien softball team's 2-0 home win over Staples on Friday, that moment presented itself to pitcher Jess DeMaio. Darien raised its record to 10-0 and Staples dropped to 6-4.
Leading 2-0 in the top of the fifth inning, DeMaio gave up a two-out single, hit a batter and issued a walk to load the bases. Down 3-1 in the count to Staples' cleanup hitter, Caitlin Kane, DeMaio beared down and threw two fastballs past her to work out of the jam.
"(That) was the key to the game," said Darien Coach Nick DeMaio, the pitcher's uncle. "That is as big a strikeout as she has had this season. Jess didn't have her best stuff. But she has been (performing in the clutch) this year and this is her first year doing it at this level. So she is becoming that kind of player and it's moments like that, that are making her that way."
When asked about the situation, Jess DeMaio admitted she felt the pressure.
"I have walked in a run with the bases loaded before and I just put it out of my head," said the pitcher. "I just wanted to throw the ball like I know how, if the girl hits it she hits it, as long as I didn't walk her."
Darien did all of its scoring in the first inning. Emily Blosio singled up the middle with one out and advanced to second when Olivia Gozdz walked. One batter later, Kelly Fahey drove a two-out, two-run double into the right-center field gap after fouling off three two-strike pitches.
Staples pitcher Jenny Johnson allowed only four hits while striking out five. Darien never got a runner to third base again.
"When she hits her spots, Jenny is tough to beat," said Staples Coach Mark Giordano. "She has a nice screwball. She's had a lot of good wins over the years. From the second inning on she settled in, hit her spots good and she pitched a good game."
Despite ailing from a lower back injury sustained earlier in the week, Jess DeMaio still managed to shut out one of the league's most potent offenses, although she needed more help from her defense than usual.
In the third inning, with a runner on third and one out, Staples' Jenn Frusciante tried laying down a safety squeeze. DeMaio fielded the ball cleanly and got it to Gozdz, the catcher, in time for the out. On the next pitch, Frusciante tried to steal second bas but Gozdz threw her out, ending the inning.
Staples threatened again in the fourth. After back-to-back one-out singles, Catherine Lomanto hit a shot to deep left field. Instead of being the clutch hit that the Wreckers so badly needed, Meredith Ott flawlessly executed an over-the-shoulder, running grab in front of the fences.
"Our outfielders spend, exactly on that play, 15 minutes," DeMaio said of his practices. "It's broken down in 15-minute intervals -- balls they come in for, balls you go back for, lateral left, lateral right. And the girls always ask why they do so much more running than the infielders, and I tell them, `That's going to win a game one day.' "
Staples left seven runners in scoring position, due partly to its inability to get the big hit, but just as much because Darien executed defensively.
"We hit the ball really well to left field a couple of times," Giordano said. "How much harder can you hit the ball? We're just not getting that little break. Their pitcher pitched a nice game though. She moved the ball around. They played good defense and they didn't make any mistakes."
Staples played at Norwalk yesterday and hosts Stamford tomorrow and Wilton on Thursday.