SOUTHBURY — Crisp defense, solid pitching, and one timely hit made the difference in the South-West Conference tournament opener for Newtown High School’s softball team. The fifth-seeded Nighthawks pulled out a 1-0 nail-biter over host Pomperaug, the tourney’s fourth seed, in their quarterfinal round game on Memorial Day, May 26.
The contest, originally scheduled for May 24, was postponed due to wet field conditions. The change set up a back-to-back game day scenario for the winner with a May 27 semifinal clash against top-seeded Lauralton Hall of Milford (4 pm at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield).
Mali Klorczyk drove in the only run in Newtown’s win over the Panthers, plating pinch runner Haley Ryan with a single. Ryan entered after Katie Laaksonen reached on an error in the top of the fifth inning.
Defense was the name of the game in this contest. One fielding miscue proved costly for the Panthers, and the Nighthawks were strong with the gloves to keep their opponents off the scoreboard.
“I think that was our best defensive effort of the year,” Newtown Coach Bob Guererra said. “It was a defensive gem for us. Not once in that game did we give them four outs in an inning.”
That wasn’t the case in a doubleheader sweep by Pomperaug during the regular season.
“We gave ’em extra outs all over the place,” Guererra recalled.
Not when it mattered more.
In fact, plays in the field denied runs in the playoff battle. The Panthers set the table with two straight singles to begin the game. With runners on second and third in the opening inning, an unconventional double play got the Nighthawks, and pitcher Gillian Galante, out of trouble. A groundball to third baseman Kayla O’Grady started an odd 5-3-2-4-1 double play, culminating with Galante covering home plate and taking a throw from second for the final out.
Guererra was particularly pleased with the play of O’Grady and second baseman Karlie Kuligowski as the Hawks played errorless ball.
The Hawks had base runners in every inning, but couldn’t take advantage of several good chances, including a bases loaded situation in the third, two runners on in each the fourth and sixth, and a leadoff triple by Laaksonen in the seventh.
“We’re getting good swings at the plate,” said Guererra, who would have liked to see another timely hit or two, but was relieved — and thrilled — to escape with the win.