Pictured: Senior Kelly Boothroyd said “the tank was completely empty,” but coach Steve DeMartino’s faith in his ace to close out North Branford was rewarded in a 9-4 victory.
By Marc Silvestrini
DURHAM — There’s a lot you can say about Coginchaug ace Kelly Boothroyd. The list includes: She throws hard, she’s got great stuff, she knows how to pitch and she flat out knows how to win.
But maybe the most important thing you can say about the right-hander is that she has heart. Lots of it.
In Tuesday’s important Shoreline Conference match between the 12-2 Blue Devils and 13-1 North Branford, Boothroyd’s teammates staked her to an early 7-0 lead, but as the game wore on the deep and talented Thunderbird lineup began to exact its toll on Boothroyd’s right arm, if not on the scoreboard.
In the last of the seventh, the T-Birds had closed the gap to 9-4 and had two runners on base with two out and Jada Miconi, perhaps the league’s most dangerous hitter, at the plate. And Boothroyd was on the brink of exhaustion.
“Oh yeah, I was completely gassed,” she said. “The tank was completely empty. In a game like this against a great opponent like North Branford, I really have to work overtime with every pitch I throw.”
“In this kind of game,” she added, “every single pitch takes a full effort.”
With Miconi waiting for her at the plate and her catcher – sister Dana Boothroyd – emphatically reminding her that now was definitely not the time to give in, Kelly dug deep and threw a fastball that Miconi popped straight into the air in front of the mound. Kelly took charge, made the catch and the Blue Devils had secured a 9-4 win.
“Honestly, I just didn’t want them to score any more runs,” Boothroyd said. “I said to myself, ‘That’s all the runs they’re going to get.”
Coginchaug coach Steve DeMartino never doubted Boothroyd’s ability to close out the game.
“Kelly was great today, but that’s really nothing new,” he said. “I have the utmost confidence in her – always have.”
Boothroyd justified that confidence by pitching a complete game in which she scattered eight hits and allowed four runs, only three of which were earned. She fanned 10 and walked only one batter.
DeMartino also said Coginchaug’s strong early start — four runs in the first and three in the second off North Branford’s talented starter, junior Bella Hills — set the tone for the day.
“We hit the ball well today,” he said. “Everyone up and down the lineup seemed to hit the ball hard, and it seems like we got a lot of timely hits.”
The Devils also got some excellent base running to help fuel their four-run first.
After Ava Marenna opened the game with a sharp single to center off Hills and Amalia DeMartino, the second batter in the Coginchaug lineup, was hit by a pitch, Dana Boothroyd hit a bouncer to second baseman Erica Piercey, who fielded the ball cleanly and made a strong, accurate throw to shortstop Lindsey Onofrio.
The problem for the home team was that DeMartino got an excellent jump and simply beat the throw to the second base bag, loading the bases with no one out.
Kelly Boothroyd then helped her own cause by drawing a walk to bring home Marenna with the first run of the game. One out later, with the bases still loaded, Amanda Case hit a bouncer to Miconi at third base who threw home in an effort to force the streaking DeMartino at the plate. But once again DeMartino’s quick jump off the crack of the bat and speed enabled her to beat the throw to the plate, giving the Devils a 2-0 lead.
Sophomore Allison Strang, one of the team’s hottest hitters of late, then jumped all over a Hills fastball and clouted a high drive over the head of the center fielder to plate two more runs and widen the Devils lead to 4-0.
Coginchaug added three more runs in the top of the second to give Boothroyd a sizeable lead to work with. DeMartino began the rally with a one-out single and moved to second on Dana Boothroyd’s infield pop that was dropped.
Kelly Boothroyd once again aided her own cause by crushing a double over the left fielder’s head, scoring both DeMartino and her sister. With two out, Case then stroked a sharp line drive single to left to score Allison Sambor, who was running for Kelly.
Marenna’s second hit of the day in the top of the fourth scored Natalie Ness to extend the Devil lead to 8-0 before the T-Birds offense began showing some signs of life in their half of the inning.
Miconi led off the inning by crushing a double to the left-centerfield gap and scored on Gianna Depino’s single to center. Depino, who took second on the throw to the plate to try and nab Miconi and reached third on a throwing error, then scored on Onofrio’s RBI-grounder to trim the Devil lead to 8-2.
Miconi singled in the last of the sixth and came home on Sophia Ouellet’s run-scoring double to make it 8-3.
The Devils pushed across a run in the top of the seventh off freshman relief pitcher Kiley Mullins on an RBI single by Jackie Kelly. North Branford then scored their fourth and final run in the bottom of the frame on a triple by Lauren Ackerman and an RBI-single by Gabrielle Senerchia, another freshmen.
Mullins, a lightning quick right hander, did a superb job in relief, stepping in for Hills with two outs and the bases loaded in the third and limiting the visitors to two runs on three hits the rest of the way, fanning six and walking two.
“Mullins did a very nice job today, we have a lot of faith and confidence in her even though she’s very young,” T-Birds coach Nick DeLizio said. “But Bella is still our ace. She just couldn’t establish her fastball today, just couldn’t find the zone.
“I thought today’s game was a good learning experience for us,” he added. “If anything, it taught us that we have to be more aggressive at the plate. We just took too many good pitches for strikes early in the game.”
Miconi had two hits and two runs scored to lead the T-Bird attack while Senerchia and Depino each had two hits and a ribbie.
Kelly Boothroyd contributed to the Devil cause with her bat as well as her right arm, collecting a double and three RBIs on the day. DeMartino added two hits and three runs scored, Strang had two hits and two ribbies and Marenna chipped in with two hits, a run scored and an RBI. Case added a hit and two ribbies to the 11-hit Coginchaug attack.
The loss leaves North Branford with a 13-2 record, one loss behind 14-1 Haddam-Killingworth. H-K’s game against Cromwell on Tuesday will revert back to the top of the eighth inning after H-K’s appeal of an umpire’s ruling was upheld. The game – scoreless — will be completed on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the T-Birds will play a doubleheader against Hale-Ray (two five-inning games, with just one counting in the Shoreline standings) on Wednesday to conclude their regular season.
Coginchaug, which has now won 10 in a row, has two road games left on its schedule: Wednesday at East Hampton/Portland (3:45 p.m. start) and Thursday at Old Lyme (4 p.m.).
The Blue Devils can finish either second or third in the regular season standings depending on how North Branford and H-K fare. Seedings for the Shoreline tournament, which begins Saturday, will be finalized later this week.
Cog 430 100 1–9 11 1
NB 000 201 1–4 8 2
Batteries: C–K. Boothroyd and D. Boothroyd; NB–Hills, Mullins (3) and Senerchia. WP: K.Boothroyd; LP: Hills. 2B: C–Strang, K. Boothroyd; NB–Miconi, Ouellet. 3B: NB–Depino, Ackerman. Records: Coginchaug 13-2; North Branford 13-2.