Pictured: Bella Richwine (center) is enveloped by teammates after the final out of their 13-inning win in Cromwell.

By Paul Augeri

CROMWELL – The outcome of the Cromwell/Haddam-Killingworth softball game Thursday was well worth the wait. Equal parts nerve-wracking, exhausting and exhilarating, and not just for the players and their coaches.

And to think, no admission charge.

The Cougars scored on a sacrifice fly in the top of the 13th against sensational Cromwell pitcher Lily Kenney. In the bottom of the inning, H-K freshman Bella Richwine got three straight outs after the first two Panthers batters had reached base, completing a 1-0 victory that took two days to decide.

The outcome secured the No. 1 seed in the Shoreline Conference tournament for H-K, which finished the regular season as the only team with one league loss. H-K has homefield advantage throughout the tournament.

“Crazy. It was very stressful,” said Richwine. “This was very much a team effort. Even if girls were not playing, the cheering they brought, we really had our energy.”

  • Shoreline Tournament Seeds/Pairings
  • 1. H-K
  • 2. Coginchaug
  • 3. North Branford
  • 4. Cromwell
  • 5. Old Lyme
  • 6. Hale-Ray
  • 7. Valley Regional
  • 8. Morgan
  • 9. Old Saybrook
  • 10. East Hampton/Portland
    First round, Saturday: EH/P at Valley, 11am; Old Saybrook at Morgan, 4:30pm
    Quarterfinals, Monday: Old Saybrook/Morgan winner at H-K; EH/P vs. Valley winner at Coginchaug; Hale-Ray at North Branford; Old Lyme at Cromwell
    Semifinals: Tuesday, at higher seeds
    Final: Thursday, at higher seed

Richwine’s performance spoke for itself – six hits allowed, three walks (two intentional), 20 strikeouts.

Kenney was sensational in her own right – nine hits, one walk, 25 strikeouts. In two outings against H-K this season, Kenney has 39 strikeouts.

“She is such a GREAT pitcher,” Richwine said.

Richwine also scored the winning run. Leading off the 13th, she connected on a belt-high fastball from Kenney for what looked like a sure flyout, but the ball was dropped and Richwine wound up at second.

Both Ivy McNeil and Ella McGlynn were issued intentional walks. After Kenney got a strikeout, Madison LaTouche – who two innings earlier battled in a nine-pitch at-bat before lining out — hit a fly ball to medium left that easily scored Richwine.

The Cougars (15-2 overall) reloaded the bases on a walk to Ellie Frith before Kat McQueeney bunted foul for a third strike.

Lily Kenney puts every ounce into a pitch in the 13th inning against H-K. Kenney was trying for her 14th win of the season.

Based on her previous at-bat against Kenney in the 11th, when she fouled off five pitches before lining out, LaTouche made an adjustment in the box. The left-handed hitter fouled off the first pitch before making solid contact the opposite way.

“I kept thinking, the last time I went up against her she kept throwing outside pitches,” said LaTouche, the team’s regular catcher. “I (moved) closer to home plate thinking she’ll just keep that strategy, and I just tried to foul off as many as I could until I could make contact.”

As it had in previous innings Thursday, only to come up empty, Cromwell (13-5) got the leadoff batter on in its half of the 13th when Madison Tessmer beat out a ground ball that kicked off Richwine and trickled to the left side. Jamie  Anderson then reached on a bunt back to the mound.

Richwine did not break. She got Kenney, who hits for power, to fly to center for the first out. She struck out Victoria Wiatrak on a 1-2 pitch, and she induced Monica Dewey on a pop-up to third to end it.

“She just did not give in,” H-K coach Jeff Talbott said.

Bella Richwine scores on Madison LaTouche’s flyout in the 13th for the game’s only run.

“That’s a 14-year-old girl out there,” Cromwell coach Angelo Morello said. “Both of them. To battle like that? And Bella’s got a lot of heart and guts. Both pitchers were outstanding. They came up with the extra play and they beat us. That’s all there is to it.”

On Tuesday, Cromwell thought it had walked off with an eight-inning, 1-0 victory. But Talbott had filed a protest (revisit the situation here) in the top of the eighth over an umpire’s ruling on what was thought to be an illegal player substitution. When the protest was upheld, and per the Shoreline’s bylaws, the game reverted to the point of the protest — top of the eighth, with two H-K runners on and none out.

Kenney struck out the first three batters of the day, snuffing any thought H-K had of going ahead early.

Cromwell had a handful of opportunities to end the game before the 13th.

In the bottom of the eighth, Malena Signorello tripled to right but ended up stranded. Richwine got two strikeouts, and after intentionally walking Stephanie Esposito and Jamie Anderson, she got Kenney to chase a high fastball for the strikeout.

In Cromwell’s 10th, Signorelli led off with a single to center. With one out, Sammy Smith reached on an fielding error, but Richwine struck out Tessmer and got Anderson on a pop-up.

“Getting the leadoff hitter on and knocking her in just didn’t happen for us,” Morello said.

Tessmer, Anderson and Signorello had two hits apiece for Cromwell.

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