TRUMBULL — After rolling over its first nine opponents in a dominant display, the St. Joseph softball team faced its first real test since opening day on Friday afternoon, against its toughest FCIAC opponent to date.
Locked in a scoreless game with Greenwich heading into the bottom of the fifth inning, the Cadets showed they are equally resilient in close contests.
Lauren Pitney’s RBI double staked St. Joseph to a 1-0 lead and Amy Chacho’s two-run double in the sixth lifted it to a 3-0 home victory.
“We’re not going to be scoring in double figures every game,” St. Joseph coach Jeff Babineau said. “We are going to have games like this against good teams, and Greenwich is a good team.”
The Cadets (10-0, 8-0 FCIAC) can be forgiven if they had forgotten what it was like to be tested. Since a 3-2 non-league win over Lauralton Hall to start the season, they had outscored their opponents by a combined 103-8 margin. They scored a minimum of 10 runs each time.
The doubles by Pitney and Chacho were St. Joseph’s lone hits against Greenwich’s Jessie Schelz.
But St. Joseph’s Nicole Williams was even more stingy, scattering three hits and stranding runners on third base in the first and seventh innings to preserve the shutout.
“Not allowing the run at the start was big,” Babineau said. “Nicole’s been doing a good job and we are making plays behind her.”
Greenwich stayed in the game despite committing four errors, including one to start the seventh inning. Centerfielder Madison Burhans ran a long way to try and track down Chacho’s hit but was unable to hold onto it.
“With Jessie pitching as well as she did, we can’t make mistakes,” Greenwich coach Mary Beth Fratello said. “This year we have been in a lot of close games and done well. Against teams like this you have to be mistake free.”
Colleen Bennett, who finished with two hits, led off the game for Greenwich (9-2, 8-2 FCIAC) with a single just beyond the reach of second baseman Hanna Errico. She went to second base on a passed ball and got to third on a groundout, but Williams pitched out of the jam.
Williams did not allow another runner until Bennett singled with two outs in the third. She went through a stretch when she retired 18 of 19 batters. Rebecca DeCarlo led off the seventh with a double but was stranded by Williams.
“I’m happy with the way I pitched,” Williams said. “We are going to need games like this because these are the kind of games you have in the playoffs.”
While Greenwich struggled at times in the field, it also made a big play in the third to keep the game scoreless. Pitney reached base on an error for the second time and with two outs Tori Ceballos hit a hard ball into rightfield.
Too hard, as it turned out, as Jen Ambrogio charged the ball and was able to get Ceballos by a step at first base.
The Cadets started a difficult three-game stretch that includes town rival Trumbull on Monday and Darien on Wednesday. Fairfield Ludlowe looms in the penultimate game of the season.
“We have a lot of tough games left,” Babineau said. “We have a tough week next week. Winning a game like this is good for us.”
This was Greenwich’s fifth game decided by three or fewer runs. It was shut out in its only other loss, a week ago to Westhill, 1-0.
“Jessie has kept us in every single game but we have to hit,” Fratello said.
Asked if Friday’s result was more disappointing because her team had a chance to win or motivating because the Cadets are widely considered the team to beat, Fratello said, “A little bit of both. “It’s frustrating because we had it 0-0, but we know St. Joseph scores tons of runs and to keep them to three runs, we did a great job.”