Softball: Eastern overcomes determined Central

By MICHAEL LETENDRE

STAFF WRITER

BRISTOL – The Bristol Central softball team tried to give rival Bristol Eastern a Mike Tyson-like first round knockout in its city series battle on Thursday, May 25 when the Rams flashed up two first innings runs against the Lancers.

And while Central pitcher, Peyton Greger, had Eastern on the ropes for most of the contest, late game heroics by the Lancers saw the home team ring up the decision in the end.

Eastern scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to come-from-behind, scoring a 6-2 win from the softball field on King Street in Bristol.

With the victory, the Kingstreeters finished the regular season at 15-5 while Central’s record was an excellent 11-9 with both squads hosting CIAC Class L first round games the following week.

The contest against the Lancers and Rams highlighted some of the CCC’s best pitchers as Greger and Eastern’s All-State chucker Erin Girard locked horns in a big-time bout.

And for nearly four innings, Greger was untouchable.

Though she gave up a first inning run, Greger shot right back by retiring 12 straight – 14-of-15 overall – as the Lancers just couldn’t get anything going over the first five innings of play.

“That’s how she’s been for the last two years,” said Central coach Monica Hayes of Greger. “The more intense the situation, the more that’s on the line, the better she is. She’s a competitor. There’s nothing happening out there that she’s not ready for or that she can’t handle.”

Greger took the hard-luck loss off a six run, seven hit effort that also saw her post three strikeouts and four walks.

On the flip side, Girard gave up two early runs but after the first batter of the fourth inning, she retired 10 straight, shutting down 12 of the final 13 batters she faced and struck out 16 – not walking a batter in the process – in one heck of a pitching performance.

“I think she got a little angry after the start of the game,” said Eastern coach Scott Redman of Girard. “And she kind of, I don’t know, she was pitching a little angry towards the end there which I think was good. She kept them off-balanced. She hit her spots pretty consistently and she kind of mowed them down quite a bit.”

But the first inning was bustling with activity as Central’s Gwen Torreso (2-for-3, run) went yard.

She smashed a home run to left field as Central immediately roped up a 1-0 advantage.

Greger (2-for-3, run) then dropped in a two-base hit, eventually scoring via error, and before the Lancers even got to the plate, the Rams held a 2-0 push.

“That gave us a lot of confidence,” said Hayes of the two-run start. “It’s been a few games since we’ve had a lead against Eastern.”

But Eastern responded in kind as leadoff hitter Taylor Keegan (2-for-4, run, 2 RBI) started the first inning with a double, while Greger walked both Paige McLaughlin and Alison Tellier (two walks, run) before Alyssa Hackling (1-for-3, RBI, run) dropped in a single to score Keegan and the Lancers chopped the deficit in half at 2-1.

And over the next four innings, neither squad could do much offensively as the pitchers went to work.

Girard posted five straight strikeouts going into the third inning while Greger allowed an infield hit to Giblin to open the second frame but the Central pitcher did not allow Eastern another tally until the sixth.

“I tip my cap to Peyton. She pitched really, really well today,” said Redman. “She kept us off-balanced by going in and out, in and out, living down [and] she was getting those calls. It was tough to put the ball in play and hitting it hard. And that’s what we were trying to key in on, hitting the ball hard.”

But the Rams could have added something in the third off a bit of a rally.

Torreso and Greger zipped up singles to put runners on the corners with two gone but a huge strikeout ended the inning while a leadoff single by Kayla St. Onge to open the fourth stanza proved to be the final hit of the game for Central.

Emily Ericson sacrificed St. Onge to second base but Girard fanned the next two batters to get out of the jam.

And Girard struck out the side in the fifth inning – again scooping up five straight Ks – but Eastern hit three consecutive balls to Greger on the mound in the bottom of the tilt as the pitcher easily converted those into outs and Central was still leading 2-1 going into the sixth inning.

“The lazy ground balls that she fielded, how many assists did she have on ground balls and bunts?” said Redman of Greger’s excellent defensive effort. “We really didn’t execute our game plan in that aspect and that’s really because Peyton’s such a phenomenal fielder and we knew that going in. She kept us off-balanced, she got a lot of weak ground balls that they made plays on. But eventually, I think, we kind of wore her down and we had some better at-bats.”

In the sixth, Eastern saw its first five batters reach base safely as the game-winning hit came and went.

Zoe Lowe started the mad dash by beating out an infield hit to shortstop and Tellier drew a base-on-balls to get onboard.

Hackling then sent a ground ball to shortstop, the play went to second base but the ball was mishandled and via the fielder’s choice error, Lowe scored to make it a 2-2 contest.

“We kind of put the ball in play when we had base-runners on,” said Redman. “We got a little lucky and kind of went from there.”

Lauren Aparo then jammed out a single that scooted in-between shortstop and third base to score Tellier as Eastern retook the edge at 3-2.

Hackling was also waived home on the play as the Central catcher – freshman Sarah Romano – made a great catch of the incoming ball and applied a quick tag on the approaching Tellier.

But Tellier somehow eluded the tag to score as the two-RBI hit made it a 4-2 game and Eastern nabbed another big run.

Girard followed up with a walk and two batters later, Keegan added an insurance, two-RBI single as the Lancers took a 6-2 cushion into the final inning of play.

In the top of the seventh, Girard fanned Ericson while a throwing error allowed Brooke Soucy to arrive safely on first as Central tried to rally.

But Girard ended the showdown with strikeout 15 and 16 as the Lancers won its fifteenth game of the year behind the four-run victory.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Michael Letendre, email him at MLetendre@BristolObserver.com.