Pictured: Cromwell’s infielders gather around winning pitcher Lily Kenney after the final out of their 10-6 win over Old Lyme.
By Paul Augeri
CROMWELL – When Cromwell scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth, turning a one-run lead against Old Lyme into a four-run cushion, the excitement of the moment came gushing out of coach Angelo Morello.
“That’s how you do it girls! With two outs! That’s how good teams do it! Now put ‘em away!!”
Starting pitcher Lily Kenney did just that to end a topsy-turvy non-conference game on Thursday. After Old Lyme’s first two batters in the seventh reached on hits, Kenney induced a groundout, struck out the next batter, and ate up a roller back to the mound to finish off the Panthers’ 10-6 victory.
Cromwell has won nine straight after a season-opening, one-run loss to Shoreline Conference leader Haddam-Killingworth.
“These girls just don’t quit,” Morello said. “This has to be one of my finest teams. We’ve always had good teams, but just never with a girl who was dominant on the hill like Lily. She just keeps us in games. Her teammates make play after play behind her. The clutch hitting in that inning with two outs … we just don’t die. There’s no die in this team.”
Victoria Wiatrak’s two-run single up the middle and Monica Dewey’s hit just over the glove of Old Lyme second baseman Victoria Gage were the keys to the Panthers’ sixth-inning outburst, easing the burden on Kenney after the Wildcats used a two-run double by Julie Rudd and an RBI single by Grace Lathrop in the top of the inning to make it a 7-6 game.
The teams met just six days earlier in Old Lyme, where the Wildcats chipped away at a 4-1 deficit only to lose 4-3.
“Our last game against Old Lyme was like this one, too. They’re a great hitting team,” said Kenney, a sophomore right-hander who has progressed into one of the top pitchers in the Shoreline. “Thank God we hit too, and I love the girls behind me. They make plays, they get runs in, they back me up. As a pitcher, there’s not a better feeling than that.”
The Wildcats (5-4) were great at the plate all right, with 12 hits off Kenney. But their defense committed four errors, extending at-bats for a dangerous Cromwell lineup, and freshman Emma Bayor struggled at times with her control.
Old Lyme jumped on Kenney in the first inning with two outs. Paige Kolesnik, who had three hits and two RBIs on the day, laced a double off the top of the fence in left-center and scored on Kassidy Standish’s double to right-center.
The Wildcats took a 2-0 lead in the third when Lathrop (three hits, 2 runs scored, RBI) reached on an infield hit, stole second and scored on Kolesnik’s two-out single.
But the lead evaporated in Cromwell’s half of the third — an inning of horrors for Old Lyme’s defense. Bayor could have faced a two-outs-and-none-on situation, but she threw away Erica Dewey’s roller back to the mound. The Panthers loaded the bases on a walk to Madison Tessmer and an infield hit by Jamie Anderson, one of four on the day for the junior center fielder.
Lily delivered in a big way with a two-run single through the left side. She advanced when Wiatrak was safe on a fielder’s choice and scored on a wild pitch. Wiatrak beat the throw home on Grace McFarlin’s grounder to third to make it 4-2, and Monica Dewey, who was hit by a pitch, ended up scoring on another Baylor wild pitch.
Cromwell added two unearned runs in the fourth as Old Lyme committed three errors, to push its lead to 7-2.
“Defensively we’ve never played that poorly,” Wildcats coach Tim Gavin said. “In our games we might have had one or two errors, but their five-run inning we had multiple errors on passed balls and wild pitches and we threw one away (at third base). We just don’t usually give runs away, we make teams earn it, and today we gave runs away. And they’re a good team, so you can’t give them extra outs.”
Old Lyme got a run back in the fifth. Lathrop and Gage hit back-to-back singles with one out, with Lathrop scoring on Kalesnik’s fly to deep center.
“The players know these girls (Old Lyme) are scrappers,” Morello said. “We knew this game was not over at 72, that’s why I was pretty aggressive on the bases (in his team’s three-run sixth).”
Kenney, who struck out 10, received tremendous support from her defense, especially from Tessmer at shortstop. Tessmer flashed outstanding range, corralling a couple of balls to her left and right and throwing to first for outs.
“She’s an amazing shortstop,” Kenney said. “The fact that she even got to those balls, even if she didn’t get the runner out, just made me happy. It’s just good softball.”
Erica Dewey, Anderson, Kenney and Wiatrak scored two runs each for the Panthers, who host East Hampton/Portland on Friday. The winning streak has the team exuding confidence. Its rematch against H-K, postponed on Wednesday because of rain, has been pushed to May 18, currently the final day of the regular season.
“We’re a tough team and we do really good under pressure,” Kenney said. “That makes all of us feel good. No one can do this on their own, without each of the other girls.”
OL 101 013 0–6 12 5
C 005 203 x–10 8 1
Batteries: OL–Emma Bayor and Paige Kolesnik; C–Lily Kenney and Monica Dewey. WP: Kenney; LP: Baylor. 2B: OL–Kolesnik, Kassidy Standish, Julie Rudd. LOB: OL–7; C–5.