By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The last time the Bristol Eastern and South Windsor softball teams clashed, a late-game error did-in the Bobcats as the Lancers won the contest 2-1 back on April 23.
Fast forward to the rematch on Wednesday, May 30 – in the second round of the Class LL tournament – and Bobcats finally got their revenge.
South Windsor ended the Lancers’ playoff run with a 4-0 victory from Bristol.
South Windsor improved to 17-5 on the season while Eastern finished the year at 15-5.
“I just think we got outplayed today,” said Eastern coach Scott Redman. “South Windsor played above their level today. You’ve got to tip your cap. They played great defensively all day.”
South Windsor chucker Maria Hanchuk pretty much dominated, allowing no runs on three hits though Eastern punched balls all over the field.
But the South Windsor defense was able to track down hard hit balls and even snared them out of the air at points during the game.
Overall, Hanchuk generated six strikeouts from the circle.
“Maria pitched a great game, kept us off-balanced all game,” said Redman of Hanchuk. “We tried to make some adjustments and we did. Our kids kept fighting and I’m super proud of them for that.”
Laura Winters flashed out a double while Lyzah Corliss and Paige McLaughlin each generated singles for the Lancers.
Taylor Keegan and Riley Giblin drew walks in the contest for the Lancers but that was all the offense the home squad could muster.
South Windsor struck in top of the first when Kena Gonzalez smashed a triple to deep centerfield and scored off Hanchuk’s double down the left field line – making it 1-0.
Taylor Darby reached base via error and Liberty Wells bunted the duo into scoring position at second and third.
But Megan Lemay struck out and Sammie Kasheta grounded to first as the Lancers escaped, trailing by just a run.
“I think holding them to one [run] was huge,” said Redman of South Windsor. “Because they could have gotten a crooked number very easily. So holding them to one, I thought, was key.”
The Lancers’ leadoff hitter, Taylor Keegan, walked on four consecutive balls to open the bottom of the first.
Corliss fell via strikes but McLaughlin moved Keegan to second base where she was eventually stranded to end the first.
Girard sent the Bobcats down in order in the second – retiring six straight batters – while Giblin led off the Eastern portion of the tilt with a base-on-balls.
A sacrifice bunt moved the runner to second but Alyssa Hackling popped up to the pitcher and Winters fell to strikes as South Windsor still led 1-0 going into the third stanza.
Gonzalez opened the inning with an offering to Girard that was bobbled to shortstop.
The runner arrived safely off the gaffe and when the ball was thrown away at first, the double error resulted in Gonzalez going to second base.
Later in the frame, Darby grounded out and Gonzalez scored to make it a 2-0 contest.
In the fourth, South Windsor’s Becca Vesco was hit-by-pitch, stole second, and scored on a single by Kayla Vesco as the Bobcats secured a 3-0 push.
Hanchuk was throwing a no-hitter into the fourth inning and things did not change for the chucker.
Through four, she walked just two and punched out five as the Bobcats entered the fifth frame ahead by a 3-0 edge.
Bristol made good contact in the fifth inning as Winters slapped a double to left with two gone as the Lancers were looking to tally a run.
But Hanchuk struck out Kylie Wolfradt to end the fifth as the visitors continued to lead, 3-0.
Alex Parent added a single for South Windsor in the sixth and when Kayla Vesco dropped a ball in front of the Eastern catcher that ended up fair, she got to first base safely.
With runners on the corners, Gonzalez drilled a fly-ball to right but Giblin chased it down for the third out.
Eastern gave it a whirl in the sixth as Corliss and McLaughlin plastered out back-to-back singles as the tying run was at the plate with one out.
“They made adjustments at the plate,” said Redman of his squad. “It took a little while for sure but we got some hard hit balls, got some good wood on the ball today. It might not show with our hit total or our run total but we hit the ball hard.”
“That’s softball, that’s baseball. They made some really good plays and took away some hits so playing with a lead, it’s easier to make those plays.”
But when Girard flew out, Corliss was caught off the second base bag and the double play ended the inning as opportunity came and went for the Lancers.
An RBI single by Megan LeMay in the seventh propelled the Bobcats to a 4-0 lead with Eastern down to its final outs.
Becca Vesco, playing at second base, robbed Giblin of a hit to start the bottom of the seventh as the Lancers simply couldn’t put a game-winning drive together, falling 4-0 and ending the season at a more than respectable 15-5.
“South Windsor takes two hits away there late in the game. It’s a totally different game if they get through,” said Redman. “So you’ve got to tip your cap to them. I don’t think [Eastern] played that poorly. We did make some errors for sure mentally and you can’t beat really good teams when you make those errors. But [South Windsor] went out and won it today, I don’t necessarily think we lost it.”
PHOTOS by JANELLE MORELLI