ROCKY HILL - The Rocky Hill softball team is three steps closer to a regular-season goal of 19-1 after victories over E.O. Smith, Ellington and Fermi.
The Terriers are unbeaten on the road at 6-0 after recording a 3-0 win at E. O. Smith May 12 and are 8-1 at Vicino Field after defeating Ellington (3-1, May 14) and Fermi (8-2, May 15).
Rocky Hill (14-1) looks to add to its 14-game win streak with all-important CCC East meetings at Tolland and Rockville this week before hosting Bloomfield Friday, May 23, to start the Memorial Day weekend.
“I spent 11 years as the Ellington softball coach,” Terriers head coach Gil Gioia said. “My last season there was 2010, so I’ve never coached any of the players on the Ellington roster. When I left there, I told the athletic director [Tim McCluskey] that I wouldn’t schedule a game until the players I had coached had graduated, which was last year. I didn’t want to play against them. He called me this year. I thought he’d forgotten about it, but he remembered.
“Jess Greenspan had a nice hit in the second inning and also played well on defense. She’s been a very important part of our team” Gioia said of the diminutive sophomore, who may walk softly, but carries a big bat for the Terriers. Greenspan singled up the middle off of Sam Anthony and scored Rocky Hill’s first run when a throw sailed over the head of third baseman Cass Holmes.
Terriers’ shortstop Erika Leonard jumped on the first pitch in the bottom of the fourth and laced a double to center field. “First pitch right down the middle--you gotta pay for it,” said the senior co-captain, who crossed the plate with two outs to give the home team a 2-0 edge. Rocky Hill upped its advantage when Brittany Moore drove in freshman Erin Kelly with a base hit to right field.
“Erika hit that ball very well in the fourth, which was nice to see after her first at bat [a called third strike]. We need Erika to hit the ball for us to win. It’s as simple as that. This is a team game but we need her individual performance at the plate every night and every at bat.
“We used Erin as a pinch runner tonight. We put her out at second base and she ran the bases well. She took a nice turn at third and scored a big run.
“Katie [Slavin] has been the best pitcher in the CCC East all year,” Gioia praised his ace, who scattered five hits while fanning three and walking two against Ellington (10-4) “What people haven’t realized is that she’s also hit the ball well all season.
“Erika and Katie have been very, very important parts of this team. It will be strange when the day comes that I write a lineup card and Erika’s and Katie’s names aren’t on it. Both have been four-year starters who will be missed tremendously.”
Leonard said the Terriers “came out strong and came out hard. We knew we had to have good at bats and be strong defensively. Katie pitched a great game and everybody just jumped on everything we needed to jump on.”
The Knights rallied and started the top of the sixth with a pair of base hits. After right fielder Julia Sevigny recorded Ellington’s first out, RHHS assistant coach Jim Ferris went out to the mound.
“Coach said, ‘Relax. We’re fine,’” said Leonard. “Usually when he comes out he just reassures us that we’re fine. We know that we’re a good team but sometimes we just need a little reassuring to settle down and take care of business.”
The visitors averted the shut out when clean-up hitter Ariana DiCioccio’s single up the middle scored Holmes and got the Knights on the scoreboard in the sixth.
“I’m really proud of my team for pulling through and playing well defensively because the win is really important to us,” noted Slavin. “I try not to think about the win streak. I don’t want it to go to anyone’s head. I worry about it sometimes because I don’t want it to affect how we play.
“Winning the 2012 Class M state championship has definitely been the highlight of my softball career. I really hope that we can do it again this year. I’m proud of the girls for trying to improve as much as we can every day at practice. We go as hard as we can and focus on getting ready for the state tournament,” Slavin said.
Gioia called the win over Ellington “a big victory and a big night for us. Everybody contributed. It was another game on the schedule that we had to win to achieve our goal of 19-1. This is the type of game that will get us ready for the state tournament.”