WOODBRIDGE — The Sheehan softball team was back sharing a diamond with a Southern Connecticut Conference heavyweight Thursday. And while the Titans once again showed they belonged on same field as one of the state best programs, it was little consolation following a 4-1 loss to Amity in the SCC tournament semifinals.
A day after knocking off the SCC’s top seed Cheshire, the eight-seeded Titans led No. 4 seed Amity 1-0 after 4 ½ innings. But the Spartans scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to take the lead for good and advance to Saturday’s SCC title game.
Amity, whose backstop features banners proclaiming its three straight Class LL state titles from 2001-03 and two more in 2005 and 2012, improved to 19-3 on the season. The Spartans are ranked No. 5 in Class LL this year and were also Class LL state runner-ups to Cheshire in 2016 and to Southington in 2014.
Wednesday, Sheehan completed a 3-2 upset of Cheshire, which along with winning the LL state title in 2016, also played for the Class LL state title in 2015. Sheehan enters next week’s Class M state tournament with a 12-10 record.
“That’s what we are going to get in the SCCs,” Sheehan head coach Sarah Wyant said. ”You are always going to see good competition and it’ll only make us stronger.”
As she did Wednesday at Cheshire, Sheehan pitcher Erin Dighello kept Amity off the scoreboard through four innings with an assortment off off-speed pitches. Going into the fifth inning, Dighello had kept the heart of the Spartans’ order to just one hit in eight trips to the plate.
Dighello was staked to a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning via Riley Wolcheski’s RBI single.
“It felt good to be right in there with them, competing,” said Dighello, who scattered three hits over the first four innings before the fateful fifth inning did her and the Titans in.
Amity’s fifth inning started with a harmless bunt single, but escalated quickly. The Spartans strung together five hits, including a pair of doubles, to plate four runs. And Amity’s top four hitters – all seniors hitting over .500 this season – were instrumental in the rally.
“We had a really hard time with Erin (the first two times through the order). She was hitting her spots and she really had us off balance,” Amity head coach Loren Purcell said. “We had to figure her out. We could do well against her, but only if we got ourselves together and made adjustments.”
No. 2 hitter Dani Nordyk’s two-run double gave Amity the lead, scoring both Daisy Brownfield and leadoff hitter Nicole Koshes. Brownfield led off the fifth inning with a bunt single, while Koshes hit a soft spinning grounder that eluded Sheehan shortstop Nicole Dorsey.
“I knew I had to mix in a lot of curveballs and change ups,” Dighello said. “I think the bunt and little ground ball killed us. Then I missed a spot (to Nordyk).”
Amity’s No. 3 hitter Carly Marchitto’s 100th varsity hit scored Nordyk and sophomore Marissa Dwyer’s double produced the Spartans’ fourth run of the fifth inning.
“We adjusted in the box and moved up to get her curve before it broke,” Nordyk said. “We just had to stay positive.”
“It’s a hard adjustment with the movement of (Dighello’s) ball,” Marchitto said. “But Daisy’s bunt and then Nicole getting on, you could feel the energy get up. Then Dani with that ripped double. We just exploded.”
Sheehan put the tying run at the plate in the seventh inning after a leadoff single by Wolcheski, who went 3-for-3. Tea Martin followed with another single to put Spartans on first and second with one out. But Dighello popped out to second base and Dorsey struck out to end the game.
“We were really hyped and had a lot of energy coming into this game,” Wolcheski said. “We were pretty excited to make it this far.
“And we got the tying run to the plate (in the seventh inning). We were just thinking, base-runners, base-runners, base-runners. Little hits were all we needed.”
Sheehan had six hits off Amity pitcher Grace Whitman. Meghan Murphy provided a bunt single in the fourth inning, while Carolyn Biel had Sheehan’s other hit.
“This game is all about momentum, and they grabbed it at the right time,” Wyant said. “We fought back there a little bit at the end. I couldn’t be more proud of the girls.”