STAMFORD — The ball rocketed off of Shannon Stabile’s bat, and whiplashed necks turned toward leftfield to see whether a Greenwich victory that seemed a certainty just three batters earlier was going to be snatched away.
Stamford, sluggish at the plate most of the day trying to solve Greenwich pitcher Jessie Schelz, was trailing, 6-2, when it came to life with four straight hits, the last an RBI single by Nikki Pease that brought Stabile to the plate as the winning run.
Stabile drove a deep fly, but comfort came to the Greenwich dugout and disappointment to Stamford’s as Erin White, with two hits and two RBIs on her ledger, caught it just a few feet from the fence to give the Cardinals a 6-3 win on Thursday afternoon.
“I was a little scared,” said Schelz, whose ball movement sapped the Black Knights of any comfort level at the plate. “I knew the girl was a good hitter and she hit the ball hard before, but I had confidence in my outfielders.”
The teams started the day tied for fourth place in the conference standings at 10-4, but that confidence level may be the big difference heading into the final week of the season.
Greenwich (14-3, 12-3), after getting shut out in consecutive games by St. Joseph and Darien, won for the fifth straight time, a streak that includes a win over Fairfield Ludlowe, which started the day in second place.
“Just keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Greenwich coach Mary Beth Fratello said of the preparation strategy for the playoffs. “Jess has to keep pitching well, we have to play defense, we have to keep hitting. We have to keep winning.”
The Cardinals have been as consistent as a metronome all season, rising from wearing the label of sleeper in April to title contender six weeks later.
Schelz caught five players looking at third strikes as Stamford’s offense over the first six innings consisted of Colleen Adams’ two-run single in the third that erased a 1-0 deficit.
“We kept her moving it around,” Fratello said. “Inside, outside, up and down. We moved it around a lot and kept them off balance.”
Schelz made her performance seem more analytical.
“I was just able to figure out the umpire, where he was calling it,” she said. “I was figuring out the batters. I was just trying to hit my spots.”
Greenwich picked away at the 2-1 deficit, going ahead in the fourth on Rebecca DeCarlo’s two-run single — she has singled and scored on Erin Ferguson’s double in the opening inning — and adding runs in the fifth and sixth innings.
“It was nice to have my pitches go where I wanted and we played good defense and got good offense,” Schelz said.
Stamford (12-5, 11-4), a surprise in that it relies on so many underclassmen, looked like a tired team. It is in the middle of the killer part of the schedule, which started with games against Fairfield Ludlowe, Westhill and Trumbull and concludes on Monday with New Canaan.
The Black Knights have lost three of four and looked in need of a psychological pick-me-up. Christina Joannou labored with her control on the mound before leaving in the fifth, but she is just returning from a hamstring injury and is essentially going through a second preseason.
Lauren O’Neill made as spectacular a diving catch in centerfield as you will see in a softball game, but the Black Knights also committed three errors.
“I felt like we were feeble today, we were flat,” Stamford coach Tony Esposito said. “We were not good at the plate, but I tip my hat to their pitcher. She was right on the black of the plate, hitting corners. We have a lot of work to do.”
The Black Knights still have a week to figure it out.