By Hayley Tafuro
STAMFORD — One big hit changed everything in the FCIAC quarterfinal matchup between the No. 3 Stamford Black Knights and No. 6 Norwalk Bears on Saturday afternoon. After staying with each other all game, Stamford came out on top with a 6-4 victory thanks to junior Maria Zecena.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Black Knights had the bases loaded when Zecena came up at bat. She found her pitch and slammed a single into the outfield that brought home two of her teammates and finally broke the tie score.
“I just needed to get a key hit for my team,” she said.
It was a game of big hits to say the least, starting early on for both teams. After each team scored a run in the first inning, the Black Knights lit up in the second for three home runs from Maddie Santora, Victoria Cuscuna and Lauren O’Neill.
“It seemed like everything that was put in the air was going out,” coach Tony Esposito said.
Just like that, Stamford took a quick 4-1 lead on Norwalk.
“What we were thinking about when we hit those three home runs was that there’s a lot of game left, and we can’t get happy,” Esposito said.
The Bears kept their composure. A double from Katie Sciglimpaglia, her first of three on the day, preceded a home run from Allie Hall, which brought in two runs for Norwalk. They quickly made up the rest of the deficit by holding off Stamford in the bottom of the third and key base-running in the fourth from Kasey Hogan, who came home off of another double from Sciglimpaglia.
“They came right back, and they drove us to a 4-4 game,” Esposito said. “One hit here and there, and the game is different.”
Stamford ended Norwalk’s scoring after a sharp play from third baseman Haley LaMotta, who Esposito credited along with second baseman Nicole Pease for key defensive plays down the stretch.
“It was the focus of winning this game for all of us, and making sure that we all had the fire still lit through this whole game,” Zecena said.
Stamford’s Sara Staley and Norwalk’s Ali Brown regrouped at the mound after the surge of homers to keep the score tied at 4-4 up until the sixth inning.
Out came Zecena to give Stamford the two-run edge heading into the seventh. LaMotta made another key play at third base, and despite hits from Norwalk’s Nicole Bonanni and Samantha Troetti to attempt to rally, Stamford made the final out at first base to seal its victory and move on to the semifinal round.
“We have been hitting the ball, and we’re hoping to ride this wave,” Esposito said, alluding to the team’s next matchup with Darien.
“It feels amazing,” Zecena said. “I know we’re going to go in headstrong.”