By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – Mother Nature decided to turn Tuesday, April 9 into a wet and wild ride for the Bristol Eastern and Southington softball squads in a CCC Interdivisional tilt in Bristol.
The Lancers were leading 3-2 after five completed innings but trailed by two runs midway through the sixth, 5-3, as the rain caused a bit of flooding on the field.
But when the game was quickly called, with one out recorded in the bottom of the sixth inning, the winner of the showdown between the teams was truly in doubt and questions still remained.
Was it a completed game?
There wasn’t a site director or administrator on the grounds to make a final decision and that left both head coaches calling around to find some sort of resolution.
But with the rain coming down in the sixth inning, Southington coach Davina Hernandez was about to bring a new pitcher into the contest with two Eastern runners on base as the home squad was one hit away from tying the thing up.
As she made her way onto the infield, Hernandez slowly walked to mound, pointing to the worsening conditions around the mound to the game officials and the umpires eventually ended the event – calling a quick conclusion to the game.
But which team was declared the winner?
Was it Southington, holding a 5-3 lead in the sixth inning?
Or was it Eastern, who led 3-2 going into the fateful final frame?
“If I’m being 100-percent honest, I think [the game] reverts to the last completed inning,” said a bewildered Eastern coach Scott Redman. “That’s what I think. It’s either that or a continuation which I think only happens in the [state] tournament.”
And the Southington side was just as confused.
“We don’t know,” said Hernandez at the time. “But it’s not safe. We can’t have them out there.”
Federation rules came into play and according to those guidelines, the game reverted to the last completed inning – which was the fifth – and the Lancers leading by one.
That meant Eastern won the CCC Interdivisional contest, moving to a perfect 3-0, and knocking off one of the state’s top programs in the process.
And it was a wild ride to the finish.
The Knights (2-1) scored three runs in the top of the sixth to make it a two-run lead in their favor but the Lancers were clawing right back.
With a runner on first and second, it appeared Eastern was about to run Southington chucker Julia Theriault out of the game before Hernandez started questioning the field.
“It was unsafe conditions,” said Redman. “[Hernandez] brought it up [and] the umpires made the determination that it was unplayable.”
Redman noted that it had stopped raining at that point of the contest and there weren’t any attempts to make the field playable though the Eastern coach had plenty of speedy dry and was more than ready to work on the field to keep the game going.
And there was a break in the weather with a further chance to dry things out and resume play.
“I mean, literally, it stopped raining,” said Hernandez. “But I just can’t put the kids out there…it’s just interesting both coaches wanted to continue to play and then [the umpires] walked off the field.”
It was a miracle the field was even playable in the first place as several games around the area were postponed.
During one point in the day, Redman said game was postponed and then soon after, the contest was back on.
It’s just a day in the life of a CCC South softball coach in early April.
“I don’t know…it was a mess to start with,” said Redman of the day.
Eastern overcame a 2-0, first inning deficit – posting three straight runs – for a one-run edge that held up in the end.
The Knights were shutout on the scoreboard over the final four innings of the contest.
“I’m proud of the way our girls played,” said Redman. “We battled with them. We had the lead prior to [the sixth inning] and we knew with the weather, we had to get the lead and keep it for that reason.”
The contest was fast and furious from the start as Southington generated two extra-base hits and four overall in the top of the first frame, scoring two runs to draw first blood.
But it could have been much worse.
Southington’s Chrissy Marotto started the fray by slicing a triple down the line in left but the ball was eventually thrown back in and as the runner rounded third, a play at the dish was imminent.
A slick tag by Paige McLaughlin at the plate forced Marotto out at home as good fielding – and a great putout by the Eastern catcher – kept the Knights off the scoreboard.
But it became a two-out rally as Abby Lamson doubled with two gone, eventually scoring on a wild pitch to make it a 1-0 game while an error in the field plated Gabby Verderame-Malachowski, who reached via an infield hit over a muddy Bristol infield, as Southington led 2-0 through one completed frame.
“[Eastern pitcher Erin Girard], she basically had to take one to two pitches out of her arsenal for the first couple innings,” said Redman because of the rain and cold conditions. “She just couldn’t feel her hand. And by no means I am making excuses for her because as I told her ‘find a way’ [and she did].”
And Eastern responded with two runs of its own to tie the event up at 2-2 in the bottom of the first tilt.
With one gone, McLaughlin drew a walk and when Zoe Lowe singled to left, two runners were onboard for the Eastern chucker at the plate.
And Girard blasted a shot to right field, emptying the bases, as the two-RBI double made it a 2-2 contest through one completed frame.
The Knights tried little small-ball in the second inning but to no avail.
Kelsey Fernandez dropped in a one-out bunt hit to get on base and then stole second but off a strikeout of Nicole Greco, the lead runner was stranded at third in the end.
Eastern was retired in order in the bottom of the second inning while Julia Panarella singled with two down in the top of the third for the Knights.
But it was still a 2-2 game going into the bottom of the third and Southington made a pitching switch.
Theriault took the hill for the Knights and not a lot changed as Southington retired eight straight batters and going into the fourth tilt, it was still a 2-2 stalemate.
Fernandez again raced out a bunt hit in the fourth but couldn’t score while on the Eastern side, despite making an out at the plate, the home team captured the final lead of the affair.
Girard walked to open play, pinch-run for by Sophia Bouchard, and the runner was sacrificed over to second via a bunt from Riley Giblin.
Alison Tellier then sent a single by first base and Bouchard was waved home as she rounded third.
However, Bouchard was gunned down at the plate for the second out of the inning.
On the play, Tellier hustled to second and when Alyssa Hackling sent a screamer to left, the freshman scored the go-ahead run off the RBI double, and the Lancers were leading 3-2 through four.
Southington nearly responded in the fifth as two singles had runners on second and third with no one out.
But two groundouts later – one back to the pitcher and the other to first base – those Southington runners were still stuck in scoring position.
And when Girard tallied a strikeout on Diane Williams, her third of the game, it remained a 3-2 contest and the Lancers kept its lead intact.
Eastern was retired in order in the bottom of the fifth and that’s where the game became official and the tomfoolery began.
The fateful sixth inning – the stanza that never was – was where Southington nabbed its unofficial 5-3 lead.
In the sixth, an Eastern error led to the leadoff batter getting onboard for the Knights and a long triple to centerfield by Katelyn Lipsky tied the contest up at 3-3.
Fernandez then grounded into a fielder’s choice as Lipsky scored to propel Southington to a one-run edge at 4-3 and when Marotto singled, another scoring play was in the works.
With two gone, Redman intentionally walked Lamson but Verderame-Malachowski poked a base-hit to left as Marotto scored and quickly, it was a 5-3 game with the Lancers due up.
Eastern’s response in the sixth started as Girard was plunked by a pitch and when Giblin earned a hard-fought walk, the Lancers had something brewing with just one out.
And as Theriault was about to get lifted from the showdown, the game was called with Eastern – eventually – declared the winner by a single run.
“The elements played a role for sure,” said Redman. “No one’s at their best in these conditions. Softball’s not supposed to be played in 40 degree weather. Both pitchers struggled to find their grip and throw their ‘A’ stuff so you didn’t see their high end of what their capable of.”
NOTES…The win over Southington was Redman’s first ever over the Knights. It was the 78th victory of the Scott Reman era as coach at BE.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Michael Letendre, email him at MLetendre@BristolObserver.com.