Pictured: Mercy pitcher Alexa Boone, left, with catcher Sophia Engels and the ball used by Boone to record her 200th strikeout of the season.
By Paul Augeri
MIDDLETOWN — Mercy senior Alexa Boone is a team-first athlete, but it was more than OK for her to take a moment Friday night to reflect on a personal milestone.
That’s a big number befitting a big-time pitcher, which Boone has been from the get-go this season.
The left-hander recorded her 200th K of 2021 in the second inning of Mercy’s 14-2 mercy-rule victory over Lauralton Hall of Milford at Lu Gecewicz Field. She needed four to get there and finished the night with 11, while also driving in five runs as the Tigers won for the ninth time in their last 10 games and improved to 11-4.
“For her the number is just a little satisfaction knowing how much time she put in in the offseason to know that it’s working out for her,” Mercy coach Tony Calcagni said. “It’s just a little verification that she has gotten better and that she’s ready for the next level. She’s just done a great job for us.”
“I think she’s more happy with the 11 wins than the 200, no doubt about it,” Calcagni added. “She’s definitely a team player.”
Boone struck out two batters in each of the first four innings. In the fifth, she weaved in three K’s around a hit, two walks and an error that led to Lauralton Hall’s final run. She scattered three hits, walked two and hit a batter.
“Two hundred strikeouts is a great accomplishment that is a testament of not treating last year’s ‘offseason’ as such,” she said, a reference to the 2020 season’s cancellation because of the pandemic.
Boone then threw the credit to catcher Sophie (Engels). The two are a first-time battery.
“Sophie has been the key to much of our team’s success. We only started working together this season, but no one would ever know,” Boone said. “We have been learning from each other and we make each other better.”
Mercy quickly put Boone in an advantageous spot by scoring three runs in the first inning before putting seven more on the board in the second, erasing a forgettable performance the last time these teams met. Lauralton Hall, which fell to 3-12, rallied late for an 8-7 win on April 20 in Milford.
“Boone is top notch,” Lauralton Hall coach Brett Bradanini said. “When you’re as good as she is, it’s going to be an uphill battle. And she’s a power pitcher on top of it. It’s tough (for hitters) to adjust on the fly when you’re facing top-tier pitching.”
After Boone struck out two batters in the first, senior Nicole Saraceno led off the Tigers’ half with a double to left field and advanced to third when the hit wasn’t fielded cleanly — the first of three Lauralton Hall errors in the inning.
Amelia Andruskiewicz singled home Saraceno, wound up at third from a two-base fielding error on her hit, and scored on Boone’s grounder to second. Mercy went up 3-0 as Ashley DeLuca singled, stole second, advanced to third on a grounder to third baseman Michaela Fortier and scored on her wild throw to first.
Mercy pushed the envelope on the bases and it forced Lauralton into mistakes in the field.
“Our kids have really gotten a lot better in base running and being aggressive,” Calcagni said. “We still made a bunch of mistakes, but those are minimal now. We’re getting better. We’re trying to force the issue.”
In the second, Jasmine Mendez got Mercy’s seven-run surge going with a one-out infield single. Saraceno lined her second hit of the night to left, and after Mendez stole third and Saraceno moved up on catcher Katherine Kelly’s throw, Boone drove in both when her two-out fly to shallow left fell in.
DeLuca singled home pinch runner Delaney Boone, Katelyn Bailey reached on a base hit and Paige Frederick’s rope of a hit to right field scored DeLuca. After Lauralton Hall pitcher Cayla Furnari walked Ava Chrostowski, Sophia Engels dunked a two-run single into shallow right.
Lauralton Hall scored an unearned run in the third. Emma Stronge reached on a throwing error to start the inning and scored on Michaela Fortier’s two-out single to right field.
In the bottom of the inning, after Andruskiewicz doubled with one out, Boone drove a pitch into the gap in left-center for an inside-the-park home run. Mercy added a third run in the inning on another Lauralton error.
The first four hitters in the Tigers’ lineup — Saraceno, Andruskiewicz, Boone and DeLuca — had two hits and two runs scored apiece.
“It’s the old axiom, do you bunch your hitters or do you spread them out (in the lineup)?” Calcagni said. “We bunch our better ones together, so we’re hopeful we can get a jump on people and get a run and settle in and get the other team playing from behind.”
Saraceno, who can drive the ball from the leadoff spot, again showed that she can be the catalyst for the offense.
“She sets the table,” Calcagni said. “She’s a big, strong girl and she’s become better disciplined at the plate. If you make a mistake with her, she can lace it, and with her speed she’s really the perfect person we have at the top.”
Mercy, the champion of the SCC’s Quinnipiac Division, plays three games in three days starting Monday as it awaits its pairing in the conference tournament. The Tigers play at East Haven on Monday and then host North Haven and Career Magnet.
“These last two weeks our team has really displayed what we are capable of,” said Boone. “We have very good team chemistry. Everyone is part of every win, no matter if it’s a fantastic catch in the outfield, to the energy coming from our bench. We all contribute.”