FAIRFIELD — When St. Joseph softball coach Jeff Babineau talked about his pitcher not having her usual sharpness today, that sentiment needed to be put in its proper context.
After all, Lauren Wasikowski last week got all 21 outs in a win over New Canaan by strikeout. She came into today’s game at Fairfield Ludlowe without having given up an earned run all year.
That changed in the bottom of the first inning, when freshman Elena Ohe homered to rightfield. Wasikowski in the bottom of the seventh inning yielded her second unearned run of the season.
But Wasiksowki struck out 12 and gave up just five hits to arguably the best offensive team in the FCIAC. And she was supported by the other candidates for best hitting attack — her teammates. Maddy Fitzgerald hit two of the Cadets’ three home runs in a 5-2 win in a battle between the only remaining unbeaten teams in the league.
“It was a great game, very competitive all the way through,” Wasikowski said. “It was good for us to come back and score some runs after the first giving up a run, so I’m very proud of how we played today.”
The Cadets entered having scored 86 runs in a 7-0 start, while the Falcons had put up 135 in eight games. Each team scored a run in the first — St. Joseph’s was unearned, the Falcons’ came from Ohe.
Wasikowski and Ludlowe freshman Alex Lewey settled down after that. Lewey gave up a homer in the third to Fitzgerald, a rocket to centerfield, and it remained a one-run game until Niamh Dougherty led off the fifth with a home run to give the Cadets a 3-1 lead.
St. Joseph broke the game open in the seventh when Dougherty was hit by a pitch and Fitzgerald hit a shot to leftfield than left the field not long after making contact with the bat.”
“As a team we took a very aggressive approach to the game today,” said Fitzgerald, who now has eight home runs this season. “The pitcher is very talented, so jumping on first-pitch strikes, the first good pitch we see. I’ve been working on hitting pretty much every day. Just really perfecting the little things on my swing.”
Fitzgerald’s home runs earned merit points for speed and distance.
“I think we had a lot of discipline the third, fourth time around,” Fitzgerald said. “Really letting her work down to us. I saw a good pitch, got my barrel on it and it flew.”
There have been a number of compelling storylines the first half of this season, but none has been bigger than Wasikowski, a transfer from Lauralton Hall, whose body of work to date has intimidated opponents before facing her.
Babineau has had a number of dominant players own the mound but right now Wasikoswki has an element that is separating her from the pack.
“She’s different than a Nicole Williams or a Payton Doiron,” said Babineau, referring to two of his best recent pitchers. “Her ball just moves. I’ve caught her. It jumps. It’s got late movement, late break. She has so much spin on the ball. She doesn’t throw as hard — Nicole threw harder — but the ball just darts. It’s really cool.”
St. Joseph finished with 10 hits. Jill Guilfoyle also added a pair.
With the league’s best pitcher facing the best lineup to date, something had to give. Today it was the Falcons’ bats.
“I was a little surprised today by our approach at the plate,” Ludlowe coach Lou Bunosso said. “She held us at bay. She was mixing her pitches up in the zone, on the corners. We just didn’t hit the way we have been all season. On the bright side it was a good game, it was close and we battled for seven innings.”
Ludlowe and Staples each has just one loss, while Stamford and Trumbull with two each also are among the pack that hope to get the chance to end the Cadets’ run of two straight FCIAC titles and five in the last six seasons.
Just as it is easier to face a pitcher after a time or two through the order, the contenders are hoping to fare better against the Cadets with a second chance.
“Maybe we will see each other down the road again,” Bunosso said. “Both coaches learned a lot about the other team today.”