Softball: Masuk defeats Notre Dame in playoffs, 1-0

Madison Letizia pitched six shutout innings in Notre Dame's SWC quarterfinal game with Masuk High. — Bill Bloxsom photo

Madison Letizia pitched six shutout innings in Notre Dame’s SWC quarterfinal game with Masuk High. — Bill Bloxsom photo

Masuk High’s Gretchen Bunovsky had flied out her first two trips to the plate against Notre Dame pitcher Madison Letizia through the first six innings of the Panthers’ SWC quarterfinal round softball game with the Lancers in Monroe on Saturday.

Bunovsky’s double down the left field line scored Erica Pullen in the bottom of the seventh inning to lift coach Leigh Barone’s team to a 1-0 victory and a berth in the SWC semifinals on Tuesday at Frank DeLuca Hall of Fame Field in Stratford.

Pullen singled through the hole into left field to open the seventh. The Panthers’ third hit of the game gave them a leadoff runner for only the second time (Ally Lichvar had walked in the second).

Pullen advanced to second on a wild pitch, before Letizia got the first out on a pop-up to third.

A freshman, Bunovsky stepped in and ripped her game-winning two-bagger.

Letizia came in on the Masuk batters to induce 11 fly-ball outs. She struck out one and walked one.

“It was a very good playoff game,” Notre Dame coach Jeff Bevino said. “Madison’s pitching was phenomenal. She’s been great all year. The last time we played them, Madison had thrown a lot of pitches the day before in our game with Bethel. Today she was on target and executing her pitches, going inside to get the ball in the air.”

The two teams had met on Thursday, with 17-3 Masuk winning a 6-5 decision over the 16-4 Lancers. That win earned the fourth-seeded Panthers the home game.

“We had scored five runs in our Thursday game with Notre Dame,” Barone said. “I think the girls assumed they would do it again. I told them that Notre Dame plays outstanding defense, that we couldn’t put the ball in the air because they would catch everything. We needed our swings to be down and hard.”

Samantha Schiebe pitched Masuk to victory, as the right-hander shut the door on every Notre Dame rally. The freshman right-hander gave up three hits and walked three batters. Masuk committed two errors in the sixth and one in the seventh, and on each occasion Schiebe was there with strikeouts to pick up her teammates.

Notre Dame’s Dayneira Artis singled with two outs in the first, but was left right there.

In the third, Emily Schofield walked with one out, stole second and went to third on a wild pitch. MacKenzie Dobbins also drew a free pass to put runners on the corners, but Schiebe notched her fifth of 10 strikeouts to end the threat.

Masuk shortstop Alexa Bacoulis made the defensive play of the game with a back-to-the-plate catch in left field on Michaela Luk’s liner to start the fifth.

Shelby Nolan followed with a single and Artis walked with two outs, but Schiebe induced an infield roller.

In the fifth, Schofield lined a single off Schiebe’s glove. Dobbins sacrificed her up a base, but Lichvar threw behind the runner at second and she was ruled out on appeal.

Masuk’s Becca Tillotson singled with one out in the first and Bacoulis was hit by a pitch, before Letizia got one a fly-ball out.

Lichvar walked to start the second but advanced no further, as Letizia retired seven straight batters before Pullen singled in the fourth. She went to second on a passed ball, but the next two batters popped out.

Letizia set Masuk down in order the next two frames, before Pullen’s hit to open the decisive seventh.

Masuk will play top-seeded Pomperaug High in the semifinals. The Panthers defeated eighth-seeded Bethel High, 6-0. Masuk won both regular season encounters.

 

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