BRISTOL – The first round, CIAC Class L softball tournament game for Bristol Eastern was certainly a special one on Wednesday, May 29.
The Lancers, first and foremost, easily passed its first postseason test by overwhelming Bullard-Havens, 20-0, in five innings of action from the softball field on King Street in Bristol.
Eastern moved to 16-5 with the win while Bullard-Havens fell to 8-13 and was eliminated from tournament play.
But it was an afternoon belonged to Eastern catcher Paige McLaughlin as the fourth year standout collected her 100th career hit over the winning effort.
“It’s definitely exciting,” said McLaughlin of her 100th hit. “I never thought I’d get to 100 hits. I saw it done my freshman year by Charline Plasczynski but I’m glad I was able to accomplish a big feat like that.”
And defensively, the Bristol Eastern pitching staff no-hit the Tigers.
Three time All-Stater Erin Girard faced the minimum nine batters in her three innings of work to tally her 14th win of the year and each putout was via strikeout.
Eastern pounded out 18 hits overall and scored on just about every opportunity as the home squad led 12-0 through one inning of play.
“They came with the right approach,” said Eastern coach Scott Redman of his squad. “They shut them down one, two, three in the top of the first [inning]. And in the bottom of the first, they put up a number. So you can kind of keep the momentum going while being respectful and trying to stay classy. That’s exactly what we talked about.”
Girard took the hill for Eastern in the first inning with zest, striking out the side as the Lancers got to the dish quickly.
Taylor Keegan opened the stanza with a four-pitch walk, as did McLaughlin, to put two runners on.
Zoe Lowe walked via a full-court – loading things up – before Alison Tellier drew a base-on-balls RBI and McLaughlin scored on a wild pitch to make it a 2-0 contest.
Alyssa Hackling reached base on an infield error and the bases were reloaded.
And Lauren Aparo’s sacrifice fly to the second basemen allowed Lowe to score from third – making it a 3-0 lead in Eastern’s favor.
Riley Giblin and Grace D’Amato then cleared back-to-back doubles as a combined three runs scored – pushing the Lancers’ cushion out to 6-0.
Keegan came back up to score D’Amato as the batter hustled out an RBI double – as did McLaughlin behind her – and Eastern’s lead grew to 8-0.
And then Tellier sent the ball out of the park – clearing a shot in left field over the new fence – as the Lancers held an 11-0 push with two gone in the bottom of the first inning.
Hackling then unleashed a double to right to get into scoring position.
Aparo followed up with a two-base hit to left – plating Hackling – as Eastern ended the frame leading by a 12-0 tally.
Girard struck out three more batters in the second inning and, once again, Eastern was on the offensive attack.
Giblin opened the stanza with a sizzler by shortstop and D’Amato reached via fielder’s choice.
Soon after, Kylie Wolfradt came into pinch run for D’Amato.
McLaughlin reach via error – loading up the bases – and two consecutive fielder’s choices scored a run, making it a 13-0 game.
Hackling’s offering to left was then bobbled and dropped, leading to a run, and a two-run single by Hackling turned the score to 16-0.
Finally, Aparo sent a single to center to net one final run as the top of third inning saw the Lancers lead it by 17.
There wasn’t much slowing down Girard in the third and even when the Tigers made contact, it was of the foul ball variety.
Bullard-Havens pitcher Kayla Pereira again gave it a go in the third inning as Redman had substitutes and reserves in at many positions.
Wolfradt opened the bottom of the tilt with a single to left and Keegan reach on a fielder’s choice.
But the Tigers kept the Lancers off the board but had to battle the home team with Tellier now on the mound to begin the fourth inning.
And the first year chucker was just as tough from the hill.
With two outs, Bullard-Havens’ Kelmary Dias finally got on base off a walk but Arianny Santana struck out as Eastern was still leading 17-0.
“That’s her first couple innings in the tournament,” said Redman of Tellier. “We wanted to, at least, get her out there. Again, she hasn’t had as many innings per se as Erin or things like that but I think every single inning we can get her out there and put her in a competitive situation at this level, it’s going to help her development as a pitcher and as a player and get her better.”
Eastern’s Jasmine Perez opened up the bottom of the frame with a single, Aparo dropped in an infield hit and Samantha Policki slapped an RBI single past first base – scoring Perez – to make it 18-0.
“We got some girls in who haven’t played quite as much,” said Redman. “We got some younger kids some experience in the tournament and you never know when that’s going to become valuable. Now the next time up against an opponent that might be a little bit sharper, maybe those jitters of that first at-bat in the tournament are kind of a little bit at ease.”
Wolfradt singled, as did Keegan, before McLaughlin doubled two runners in as she captured her 100th hit and Eastern scooped up a 20-0 edge.
“I know the 100th hit was on her mind although not one of her teammates knew it and I didn’t know if she knew it for sure but she knew it,” said Redman of McLaughlin. “It was good for her.”
But it was just the first game of a deeper run into the tournament fray as advance was on the squad’s collective minds.
“They’ll be a higher level of competition,” said Reman of the Pomperaug challenge. “We’ll need to make an adjustment and have the right approach, especially at the plate.”
And the following day, the seventh ranked Lancers were in a war against No. 23 Pomperaug in second round play.
Eastern was able to score two runs in the sixth inning as the locals shutdown Pomperaug, 2-0, from Bristol.
It was scoreless going into the sixth before the Eastern offense went to work.
Keegan singled to get on, getting her 100th career hit in the process, while McLaughlin laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runner.
From there, Lowe drilled a base hit to score Keegan – making it a 1-0 game.
And after a Tellier pop-out, Hackling drilled out an RBI single as the insurance run made it a 2-0 contest and too much for the Panthers to overcome.
Girard won on the hill, allowing three hits, walking three, hitting a batter, while fanning seven over another complete game effort.
Finally, in a quarterfinal round tilt at No. 2 Masuk on Friday, May 31, Eastern was hanging around, trailing by just a run in the top of the sixth but in the end, the Lancers bowed out of tournament play with a 5-3 road loss in Monroe.
Through five completed frames, a home run by Giblin was the only hit of the afternoon by the Lancers to that point of the contest.
NOTES…The Eastern/Masuk game marked the final scholastic contests for the Lancers’ Kaylee Kurpaska and Paige McLaughlin.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Michael Letendre, email him at MLetendre@BristolObserver.com.