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LATEST UPDATE: QUARTERFINAL LOSS BRINGS END TO BLUE WAVE SEASON
Stamford 8, Darien 3 - Tony Esposito's game plan was the softball equivalent of football. Instead of blitzes, there was always a constant flurry of activity on the basepaths. Instead of running plays up the middle until the defense made a stop, there was a parade of bunts.
Pressure, pressure, pressure. Esposito, one of the state's most respected and accomplished coaches, devised the perfect strategy, and his Stamford High School players executed it with equal flawlessness.
The end result was an impressive 8-3 win over fourth-seeded Darien on Friday afternoon in the quarterfinal round of the CIAC Class LL Tournament, one that left the normally stoic -- and extremely superstitious -- Esposito in an emotional state.
"I'm so proud of them, you can't believe," Esposito said. "It's still one game at a time, but the kids played great. That's a fantastic opponent and an excellent pitcher."
"We went out there and we knew we didn't want this to be our last game," said Krista Robustelli, the UConn-bound leadoff hitter, who finished with two hits, reached base three times and scored twice. "We have heart. Everyone hit, everyone made plays, the bottom of the lineup did a great job. It was awesome to see."
Robustelli also finished with three of the Black Knights' seven stolen bases. That aggressiveness, along with a strong small-ball game spurred by the ability to put bunts in play, had Darien (19-6) on the defensive the entire afternoon.
"We utilized what we have," Esposito said. "We have speed and we have kids who can put it down."
"It wasn't as ugly as the St. Joseph game, but it was a not-too-distant second," said Darien coach Nick DeMaio, referring to a 13-0 loss in the semifinal round of the FCIAC Tournament. "If we had made some of the plays the complexion of the game doesn't get to where it got. You saw what having a Robustelli on base can do. How it can set you up for big innings. It worked like a charm today."
Robustelli led off the game against Darien ace Erika Osherow and drew a walk. She scored after Kelly DiPietro was hit by a pitch and Buckley singled to center. Colleen Adams then was hit by a pitch and LaMotta walked to make the score 2-0.
To her credit, Osherow settled down and allowed just one more run, on Zacena's base hit.
Esposito went with Christina Joannou on the mound, in part because Jordan Schepps had pitched in Stamford's tournament wins the previous two days, and because Joannou had won a 2-1 decision against Darien 18 days earlier.
Darien got two runs back in the bottom of the inning on Julia Domiziano's double and subsequent steal of home.
But Joannou allowed just one more run, an RBI single by Emma Hamilton in the third after Stamford had scored in the top of the inning.
Stamford broke the game open with four runs in the fourth, on three hits, an error and a pair of stolen bases.
Season News! Scroll down to read about the 2013 campaign!
FCIAC PREVIEW: ST. JOSEPH, DARIEN HEAVY FAVORITES
Putting last year's FCIAC softball season into business terms, you had the rich and the very well off. Westhill went through the regular season with just one loss, while eventual champion Darien and St. Joseph had two apiece.
Behind them were five other playoff teams separated by just two games.
A year later, the landscape appears much the same. St. Joseph and Darien are overwhelmingly viewed by league coaches as the co-favorites, but there is a pack of five teams all capable of finishing in the top half of the standings and, if all breaks right, perhaps contending for the championship.
For another season, there should be more important games, more uncertain outcomes and greater interest once the playoffs roll around.
Teams to Watch...
2) Darien: Rumors of the Blue Wave's demise following a number of graduation losses have been greatly exaggerated. For one, coach Nick DeMaio may have the conference's best pitcher, flame-thrower Erika Osherow, a sophomore who moves over from shortstop. Emma Hamilton moves from rightfield to center, while Brittany Osborn and Ali Aparicio are back at first base and leftfield, respectively. Julia Domiziano returns at second base.
BLUE WAVE TAKE SEASON OPENER IN BLOW OUT
Darien 26, Kaynor Tech 0 (5 inn.) - The story of today's game was offense, offense, and more offense as the Blue Wave pounded out their highest run total in five years with a non-league win to open the 2013 campaign. Senior captain Emma Hamilton led the charge going 4 for 4 with three singles, a double, and six RBIs. Sophomore Erika Osherow added a homeroom in the 12-run second inning and five RBIs of her own.
Osherow was also dominent in the circle, striking out 8 of 9 batters. Christina Chariott came in to close and secure the combined perfect game.
The Blue Wave travels to Masuk High School this Saturday to take on last year's Class LL semifinalists.
BLUE WAVE NO-HIT BY BUCKLEY, MASUK
Masuk 10, Darien 0 - The Blue Wave suffered their first lose of the young season as they struggled against All-State pitcher Tatum Buckley and the Masuk Panthers. Buckley struck out 15 and had two hits, including a two-run homer. Right fielder Kyla Cannon had two hits, including a solo homer, and three RBIs.
The Blue Wave was shut down all game, with just one baserunner, a lead-off walk by Erika Osherow to start the fourth. Darien will look to bounce back on Monday as they host Westhill at DHS. The two teams last met in the FCIAC Finals last May.
BLUE WAVE DROP FCIAC OPENER
Westhill 11, Darien 9 - You know that long-held adage about pitching and defense winning games? Based on the first week of the FCIAC softball season, you can throw it out the window. This year, it's hitting and defense.
And no one realizes the seismic change thus far more than Westhill coach Tom Pia. In games against Lauralton Hall on Friday and at Darien on Monday afternoon, the Vikings gave up 19 runs, yet won both times, taking an 11-9 slugfest against the Blue Wave.
"This is what it has turned into," said Pia, after his team took, relinquished and then regained a lead for the second time in four days. "Give up almost 20 runs in two games. I remember when we didn't give up 20 in a year. Darien hit the ball and we hit the ball. The good thing is we came back again."
Earned run averages by the end of the season may more closely resemble the national debt, though they are being offset by sloppy early-season defense.
In a rematch of last year's FCIAC championship game, won by the Blue Wave, each team committed three errors, and Darien held a 14-12 edge in hits, but the Vikings were able to bunch them in a more timely manner.
"We were all at Stamford High School every week during the winter hitting in the batting cages and putting in work," said Megan D'Alessandro, who finished with three hits and two RBIs against Darien. "We knew we had a tough opening schedule. Being 3-1 right now is really great."
Erica Gambino added three hits and drove in four runs for Westhill, while Tammy Wise went 2-for-2 and reached base four times. Adriana Gambino drove in two runs.
"It used to be when you got three runs you weren't focusing on hitting, you focused on defense and what the other batter did the previous time up," Pia said. "Now you focus on hitting the ball."
After the Blue Wave (1-2) scored four times in the second inning for a 5-4 lead, the Vikings came back with three runs in the fourth inning, all with two outs. Wise, D'Alessandro, Kate Brainard and Adriana Gambino each singled, while Westhill also took advantage of an error.
Darien chipped away and tied the score at 7-7 in the 5th when Emma Hamilton, who had three hits and two RBIs, hit a leadoff triple and scored on Brittany Osborn's second run-scoring single of the game. But Westhill scored twice in the 6th on an error and wild pitch and twice in the 7th on RBI singles by D'Alessandro and Erica Gambino.
"We have a good hitting team," Pia said. "They have a lot of confidence, which is really good. I have confidence that anyone in our lineup can get a hit when we need one."
Darien, along with St. Joseph considered a preseason favorite, is still trying to find some traction after losing most of the nucleus of last year's team.
Darien's Kelly Vodola had a triple, inside-the-park home run against a defensive shift and 2 RBIs, while Avery Maley and Emily Moscatello had 2 hits apiece, and Erika Osherow 2 RBIs.
"We're trying to get our legs under us and find kids who can make some plays," Darien coach Nick DeMaio said. "The thing with Westhill is the year changes and the players change but they play the same brand of softball. We battled back and battled back, but in the end we gave away too much."
The Blue Wave can take solace that they were 2-2 at this point last season, and both losses again were to Masuk and Westhill. Osherow, a sophomore making the transition from shortstop to pitcher, has good velocity and, said DeMaio, just needs seasoning.
"She's definitely able to shut down anybody," DeMaio said. "The one thing she didn't do today was get ahead of anybody. She just needs to find a groove, find a rhythm."
WAVE TAKE FIRST FCIAC CONTEST IN ROUT
Darien 12, Ridgefield 0 - The first win of the 2013 FCIAC campaign came in a blow out today as the Darien took down the Ridgefield Tigers.
Junior Julia Dominziano led the way for the Wave going 3 for 5 with 5 RBIs. Senior Captains Emma Hamilton and Brittney Osborne also had big games at the plate, each going 3 for 5 and combing for 4 more RBIs. Sophomore flame thrower Erika Osherow shut down the Tigers in the circle, limiting them to two hits while striking out ten.
ST. JOSEPH BEATS DARIEN
St. Joseph 5, Darien 1 - Ten days into the new season, few expected the two preseason favorites for the FCIAC softball title to enter an early showdown with two losses apiece.
But that is the position St. Joseph and Darien found themselves in when they met Saturday afternoon. And perhaps it was an indication that not all similar records are built alike and the teams for the time being may be headed in opposite directions when the Cadets came away with a 5-1 road win.
"We finally hit a little today," St. Joseph coach Jeff Babineau said. "We bunted a couple of times and I think we did the small things today that contributed to their demise. It has happened to us." The Cadets improved to 4-2. Both of their losses came by a run in extra innings.
"We lost a couple of close games. We hadn't really exploded yet and we got hits today," said Jenn Vazquez, the Cadets' star catcher, who accounted for one-third of her team's 6 hits, including the 100th of her career. "The losses were frustrating. They could have gone either way. Of course at this point you'd like to be without a loss but we've just kept on playing."
St. Joseph freshman Nicole Williams and Darien sophomore Erika Osherow, who is making the transition after playing shortstop last season, were locked in a 1-1 duel until the Cadets scored three runs in the 6th inning, on Mikaela Mallozzi's RBI single and two wild pitches.
After brief control issues the first two innings, Williams settled down and retired 16 of the final 17 batters she faced, finishing with a 3-hitter to improve to 3-1.
"She threw really well and she knows she has a good defense behind her," Vazquez said. "We are lucky to have a lot of depth at the position."
Williams has been splitting time with last year's starter, Tori Ceballos, who when not pitching has been making important contributions with her bat. Ceballos drove in the Cadets' first run in the opening inning, singled, reached on a walk and was robbed of a hit on a low line drive to second base.
Darien, on the other hand, seems burdened by high expectations because of their recent success, including last year's FCIAC title, despite losing a large core of that team and now starting six underclassmen.
"You see how far away we are from being competitive right now," Darien coach Nick DeMaio said. "Our problems are too numerous to go into. We aren't hitting, the defensive play has been poor and Erika has been hurting herself."
Osherow, who doubled in the Blue Wave's lone run in the second inning, is extremely talented and just struggling with her command in the early going.
DeMaio said he has no doubt that his highly touted pitcher will settle down soon. "She's got it all," DeMaio said. "She has all the physical talent she needs."
BLUE WAVE RIDES FIVE-RUN FIFTH TO VICTORY
Darien 5, Trumbull 1 - In what has developed into a tremendous rivalry in reason years, this year's contest between Darien and Trumbull only added to the storyline. Locked in a pitcher's duel through the first four innings, the Blue Wave finally broke out in the fifth to take a key FCIAC win.
Sophomore Avery Maley led the way at the plate with three hits, and Junior Julia Dominziano went 2 for 4.
Sophomore fire baller Erika Osherow was once again excellent in the circle, tossing a two-hitter.
BLUE WAVE CRUISE TO FOURTH WIN
Darien 25, Bassick 2 (5 inn.) - The game got off to a shaky start, as Darien gave up two unearned runs in the top of the first. But the Blue Wave bounced back with six in the bottom half and eleven runs in the second on route to a convincing win over Bassick.
Freshman Lexi Lopiano and Sophomore Christina Charriott combined to get the win the circle.
BLUE WAVE RUNS WIN STREAK TO THREE
Darien 15, Central 2 (5 inn.) - No shaky start for the Blue Wave in this one, as Darien rode an 8-run first inning to an easy win in five. Sophomore Erika Osherow got the scoring started with a triple and two-run homerun in the first inning. Senior Captain Emma Hamilton also had two hits and two RBIs, as did sophomore Lauren Cicero. Freshman Dagny Belak also hit her first career varsity home run.
Osherow and Sophomore Christina Charriott combined to get the win the circle.
BLUE WAVE SHUTS OUT ARCH RIVAL
Darien 3, New Canaan 0 - The rivalry speaks for itself! Darien versus New Canaan is a game that both schools mark on the calendar, no mater the sport. And over the last few years, each school's softball programs have lived up to the hype. Today, was no different as the two teams battled in a tremendous pitchers' duel. This year, it was sophomore star Erika Osherow who beat the veteran Cydney Ventura.
Osherow did it all, not only holding the Rams scoreless in the circle, but she also led off the bottom of the first inning with a towering home run to get the Wave on the board.
The Blue Wave put up another run in the fifth when sophomore Keli Reyes hit an RBI double and a final one in the sixth Captain Brittany Osborne's RBI double, but they were not needed. Osherow allowed just one hit while striking out 12.
BLUE WAVE RUN WINNING STREAK TO FIVE, OSHEROW MASTERFUL
Darien 4, Greenwich 0 - Pitcher Erika Osherow didn't just pick up the win for Darien High. Her 15-strikeout, 3-hitter in Wednesday's 4-0 victory over Greenwich also firmly established the possibility of the Blue Wave pulling off the first ever FCIAC "3-peat" this season.
But Darien wasn't the only team to leave the field feeling good about itself.
"Greenwich was picked to be there at the end," Darien coach Nick DeMaio said, referring to the short list of FCIAC championship contenders. "And, after seeing them today, I think they will be."
If two miscues in the third inning could be wiped out, Greenwich would have been in a scoreless game going into the bottom of the sixth against the two-time defending FCIAC champions. But, of course, the mistakes counted.
"I told the girls that against a team like Darien you can't make mistakes," Greenwich coach Mary Beth Fratello said. "But we did and it cost us."
The two unearned runs Darien (7-3, 6-2 FCIAC) scored in the third inning kept this from being a classic pitching duel between Osherow and Greenwich's Allison Kach. Two errors and Julia Domiziano's RBI singled keyed Darien's third-inning rally and the way Osherow was pitching, that would be more than enough.
Osherow, a sophomore trying to fill the shoes of departed all-state pitcher Jess DeMaio, was spectacular. She retired nine of the first 10 batters she faced and finished by sitting down 11 of the last 12. In between came the one threat the Cardinals (7-4, 6-3) could muster. Singles by Colleen Bennett and Erin Ferguson left runners at second and third with one out, but Osherow retired the next two batters.
"I love the pressure but the two runs were a good lift for me," Osherow said. "Greenwich is a really good team and I was looking forward to playing them."
Osherow's poise seems to be growing each day. "Early in the season she put too much pressure on herself," DeMaio said. "She had some big shoes to fill and that's tough for anybody, regardless of ability. But she has settled down."
After five strong innings, Kach tired somewhat in the sixth when Rebecca DeMaio's clutch two-out, two-run single gave Darien a 4-0 lead. Emma Hamilton's single started the rally. Kach had allowed just three hits before that.
Darien started the season 2-3 but has won five in a row. "We can definitely make it three (championships) in a row," Osherow added. "Early in the season we were just trying to get our feet set. Now I'm pleased with the momentum we have."
"We lost the core group we had for three years but this team has bought into the fact that the program is here to stay," Nick DeMaio added. "They're thinking, `Now it's our turn.'"
OSHEROW TOSSES ONE-HITTER ON HEAL TEAL DAY
Darien 10, Trinity Catholic 0 - The Darien softball team took a while to get the bats going during its home clash with Trinity Catholic on Friday afternoon, but Blue Wave pitcher Erika Osherow had her team covered. Osherow went the distance, allowing only one hit, walking none and striking out 13 -- including eight of the first nine batters -- in her team's 10-0 win.
"It's a great event to be a part of," Osherow said. "The support I got from my teammates today was really amazing. Everybody that came out to support us -- there was such a great energy."
But this was a special day for Osherow that went well beyond any pitching line. Friday marked the second annual "Heal Teal" game in which the Blue Wave raise money with all of the proceeds going to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund (OCRF). Osherow's mother, Cora, as well as coach Nick DeMaio's mother, Margaret, each lost their battle with cancer.
"It honestly means the world to me," Osherow said. "I know my mom's really proud, I just love that the school and my team has this event to offer me. It's such great support, and they're like a second family."
DeMaio indicated the event was created with the intent of making it about all who have been impacted by cancer, but he was grateful to see the Blue Wave faithful show up in strong support of the cause. At Friday's game alone, approximately $700 was raised.
"We started it last year, and it seems to have caught on," DeMaio said. "The kids got excited about it and they're the ones that took the initiative to get out there, get the T-shirts, get the word around school and get the people here. It's nice to see them wanting to carry on this tradition and keep it going every year."
Darien snapped the scoreless tie in the bottom of the third when Osherow smacked an RBI triple over the right fielder's head that scored Keli Reyes. Kelly Vodola followed that up with an RBI single to bring Osherow home for the 2-0 lead.
"Again to have (Heal Teal) this year is great," Osherow said. "They're not giving up on me. I'm only a sophomore and it's great that I get that support from my upperclassmen, and it really means a lot."
In the sixth, the Blue Wave pushed seven runs across, highlighted by a quartet of run-scoring doubles by Emma Hamilton, Brittany Osborn, Emily Moscatello and Julia Domiziano. The first three two-baggers all resulted in one run for the Wave, while Domiziano's plated two for the 10-0 lead. Three Trinity batters later, Osherow had completed her gem and closed out the game with her 13th strikeout.
WAVE START ROAD TRIP, CONTINUE STREAK
Darien 8, Staples 0 - The Blue Wave ran their win-streak to seven on Monday with a road win at Staples High School. It was also the fourth straight shutout for sophomore Erika Osherow, who struck out 10 and had two extra-base hits. Her triple to lead off the game got the offense started for Darien, as she was knocked in by sophomore Kelly Vodola with an RBI single.
Captain Emma Hamilton continues to swing the hot bat for the Wave. She also a double and a triple, 2 RBIs and a run scored.
WAVE TAKES DOWN FCIAC's TOP TEAM
Darien 5, Danbury 0 - Batting with the bases empty in the top of the seventh inning of a game in which a four-run lead felt like 40, it didn't appear there was a whole lot more Darien pitcher Erika Osherow could do to "help herself," as the adage goes.
Nevertheless, the Blue Wave ace cracked a gapper to right-center that went for an inside-the-park home run, icing a 5-0 shutout of Danbury and supplementing the sophomore's brilliant performance on the mound.
The Hatters (11-2, 9-2 FCIAC) entered the game a primary threat to the Blue Wave's (11-3, 10-2) conference crown. But thanks to Osherow, a sophomore whose devastating fastball resulted in 12 strikeouts, nine of the swinging variety, the threat is neutralized for now.
"I knew coming into the game they were going to be a tough team, but we did our job today," said Osherow, who scattered six baserunners (three hits, three walks) and added a double at the plate. "I just went out and pitched my game. We knew they were great competitors, so we just tried to attack them early, and our defense played great."
Osherow's counterpart, Kara Orr, was not hit particularly hard either, but a couple of costly errors and faltering command spelled an early exit for the senior, who departed in the sixth having allowed three earned runs on four hits, six walks and a pair of hit-batsmen.
The Blue Wave's two-run third inning was aided by a misplayed single to right field and a dropped throw to the plate, supplying Osherow with ample cushion against a line-up she overpowered from start to finish.
"(Osherow) dominated and we stunk," said Danbury coach Harry Trohalis. "We gave them five outs (in the third). ... Our defense is usually solid. It was just an ugly game."
In one of their only sustained rallies against Osherow, the Hatters had a run cut down at the plate after an apparent collision between the baserunner and the third baseman, which led to a controversial ruling: the Hatters thought they should have been awarded home plate on an obstruction, but the umpires disagreed.
"I still disagree with that rule," Trohalis said. "I think we should have been allowed to score. That's a smart play then. Why wouldn't you (obstruct) the runner every time?"
Darien's Emma Hamilton padded the lead, to 3-0, when she was hit by Orr with the bases loaded in the fourth. Julia Domiziano accounted for the Blue Wave's other RBI with a single in the sixth. Otherwise, the Blue Wave stuck to a decided small-ball approach, which has served them well over the course of their FCIAC title defense.
"That's pretty typical of what we do," Darien coach Nick DeMaio said. "This is a big win. We had this game circled on the calendar all year because we knew Danbury would be at or near the top. They're tough at the plate and they're usually very solid in the field. They struggled a little bit with that today and that's why we won."
WAVE RUNS STREAK TO NINE
Darien 19, Harding 0 (5 inn) - Blue Wave Softball continued it's dominant trend on Friday with another offensive explosion.
Senior Captains Brittany Osborn and Emma Hamilton lead the way. Each had three hits, and Hamilton hit a homerun in the second inning. Sophomore catcher Rebecca DeMaio also hit a homerun for the wave.
Sophomore Christina Charriott extended the Wave's shutout streak, giving up just one hit before turning the ball over to freshman Lexi Lopiano who closed for Darien.
With nine straight wins and six straight shutouts, Blue Wave Softball has been nominated as a Bluestreak Overtime Team of the Week. Please vote starting this Sunday by clicking here!
SOPHOMORES LEAD WAVE TO TENTH STRAIGHT WIN
Darien 8, Brien McMahon 2 - On Monday, the up-and-coming talent of the Blue Wave lineup was on display in another convincing win.
Sophomore battery mates Erika Osherow and Rebecca DeMaio each went yard to lead the way offensively. Osherow went 3 for 4, finishing a single short of the cycle. DeMaio was 2 for 3 with a three-run blast. Sophomores Avery Malley and Kelly Vodola were the table setters. Maley was 2 for 2 with a run scored, and Vodola went 2 for 4 with a triple. The four underclassmen accounted for 9 of the Blue Wave's 11 hits.
Osherow was also excellent in the circle, striking out twelve and scattering six hits.
WAVE WIN ELEVENTH STRAIGHT
Darien 6, Warde 0 - On a week where the weather reeked havoc with the schedule, the Blue Wave didn't miss a beat, travelling to Fairfield Warde and beating the Mustangs for their 11th straight win.
Sophomore Erika Osherow was nearly perfect. She gave up one hit, one walk, and struck out twelve. Osherow also hit a triple and scored the first run of the game. Julia Domiziano went 3 for 4, and Rebecca DeMaio went 2 for 4 with 2 RBIs.
The Wave will try to make up their game with Norwalk this weekend, weather permitting.
OSHEROW TOSSES PERFECT GAME ON MOTHER'S DAY
Darien 12, Norwalk 0 (6 inn) - You know the old saying... fourth times a charm! Well, that's not the saying, but after three previous attempts to get the game in, the Blue Wave finally got the game in against Norwalk, and what a performance they turned out.
After a slow start in the first four innings, the offense got on track with five runs in the fifth and five more in the sixth for the blowout win. But that wasn't the only story. Sophomore Erika Osherow had her best performance of the year, tossing a perfect game!
THIRTEEN IS UNLUCKY FOR BLUE WAVE
Stamford 2, Darien 1 - Perhaps on the surface it doesn't seem like the best analogy, seeing Christina Joannou is entering the final week of her second season as one of the starting pitchers for Stamford High School's softball team, but the junior was thrown into the deep end of the pool Monday afternoon.
Going up against Darien's Erika Osherow, the FCIAC's hottest pitcher, with seven shutouts and just two runs allowed in her last eight outings, Joannou knew there would be little margin for error.
And the Black Knights had been involved in just a single one-run game all season, and nine combined runs were scored.
"I think this is one of my specialties," Joannou said. "I don't get nervous."
Resolute when tested most, and with a little help from her defense and a fortuitous bounce, Joannou pitched a 7-hitter and stranded six runners -- three in scoring position -- to lead the Black Knights to a 2-1 win.
"There was a little anxiety here and there, but we pulled through," Joannou said. "I think this brought out our best. We've worked hard to come into a game like this. To beat them is just great."
Stamford, which was coming off of a 7-0 loss to St. Joseph three days earlier, ended the Blue Wave's 12-game winning streak. The Black Knights finished a stretch of six of seven games against teams that would have qualified for the conference playoffs if the season had ended on Monday and went 4-2.
On a day the top of the standings got jumbled, and in what will be a week of jockeying -- the top six teams started Monday separated by just one game -- Stamford and Darien came away with duplicate records, 14-4 overall, 13-3 in the conference and a half-game out of first place.
Osherow, who allowed just four hits and struck out 10, was certainly deserving of a better fate. But the Blue Wave committed four errors and had several mistakes on the basepaths.
"It was not like we have been blowing people away, but we'd have a 5-0 win or 6-0 win without a whole lot of pressure on the defense," Darien coach Nick DeMaio said. "Stamford is a good hitting team, they put the ball in play and our defense tightened up. Erika pitched well. They challenged her more than any team has since St. Joseph."
That was a 5-1 loss that left the team 2-3 and reeling. And if not for the biggest and strangest play of the game, the Blue Wave might have had a different outcome.
With Stamford ahead, 2-1, Rebecca DeMaio, who was 3-for-3, led off the 6th with her second double. With the count 0-1, Joannou threw a wild pitch. The ball hit the backstop and bounced up right to catcher Colleen Adams, who earlier picked a runner off third base. Adams threw out DeMaio as she tried to advance, and Joannou overcame two walks in the 7th.
"When that happened there, I said we're not supposed to win this game," Nick DeMaio said. "The catcher had the ball there just as fast as if she had caught it. Unbelievable."
Added Esposito, "Hey, a little bit of luck is always involved."
Darien scored in the 5th on Julia Domiziano's base hit.
"This is something we can think about and hopefully grow from," Esposito said. "We will forget about it in a few hours but it shows we can play with anyone."
DARIEN BOUNCES BACK WITH THREE-TOUCHDOWN EFFORT
Darien 21, Wilton 0 (5 inn) - "We have to take two steps to get what we want. Tonight was Step 1!" This was the quote from Coach DeMaio as the girls huddled up after their 15th win of the season. In convincing fashion, the Blue Wave dispatched Wilton in five innings, and will now play Fairfield Ludlowe for a chance at a first round FCIAC home game.
Offense was the name of the game. Erika Osherow led the charge with two hits including a 2-run home run in the third. Kelly Vodola had four hits, and Rebecca DeMaio and Avery Maley each had three hits. Osherow and Christina Charriott locked down the shutout, combining for 10 strikeouts.
DARIEN CLINCHES FOURTH SEED IN FCIAC TOURNAMENT
Darien 8, Ludlowe 1 - Step 2 is complete! The Blue Wave completed the regular season with a convincing win over Fairfield Ludlowe. The win clinched the four seed in the upcoming FCIAC tournament and a first round home game on Monday.
Erika Osherow and Avery Maley led the way offensively. Osherow doubled twice and singled, and Maley had two hits.
DARIEN COMPLETES FIRST STEP TOWARDS THREE-PEAT
Darien 6, Greenwich 1 - Perhaps the greatest strength of the Darien High School softball team is that from top to bottom, and at every position, there is no noticeable weakness.
Queens of the diamond for two years running, the Blue Wave took a big step toward an FCIAC three-peat Monday afternoon with a 6-1 victory over Greenwich in a quarterfinal round matchup that featured two of the league's hottest teams.
Sophomore Erika Osherow tossed a three-hitter with seven strikeouts for the fourth-seeded Blue Wave (17-4), who will face top-seeded St. Joseph -- a quarterfinal winner over Danbury -- in the semis on Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield.
Backed by a rock-solid defense that was flawless in the field, Osherow yielded only an RBI double by Colleen Bennett that scored Jen Ambrogio in the fifth.
"I don't think it was my best game but I give a lot of credit to our defense," Osherow said. "I had great support today, as usual. I'm pumped that we're moving on."
The opportunistic Blue Wave took advantage of three errors by the Cardinals (15-6), plating single runs in each of the first three innings to take the early lead.
Senior left-hander Allison Kach held her own against Darien's formidable lineup, yielding just three hits in six innings.
Senior outfielder Emma Hamilton had two of those hits, and broke the game open with a two-run single in the bottom of the sixth to score Keli Reyes and Kelly Vodola.
It was another productive day for power-hitting senior first baseman Brittany Osborn, who walked twice and doubled in Rebecca Demaio to make it 3-0 in the third.
Greenwich trimmed the lead in the fifth, but Darien responded in the home half of the inning as Hamilton doubled with one out and eventually scored on a passed ball.
"We stay together as a team," Osborn said. "Rather than focus on a three-peat, we just take it one inning and one game at a time. It's about the journey, and there's no other group of girls that I'd take over our nine. We have confidence in everyone."
Blue Wave coach Nick DeMaio knew getting past Greenwich for the second time this season would be no easy task, and can now concentrate on a fifth straight trip to the FCIAC semifinals. "They're a tough team but we rose to the challenge," said DeMaio, whose squad has won 15 of its last 16.
ST. JOSEPH ROUTS DARIEN IN SEMIFINALS
St. Joseph 13, Darien 0 - Jenn Vazquez calls it the one void on her impressive softball resume.
"The seniors have been part of a state title, and we have been to the FCIAC semifinals twice before, but never got to the final game or won the championship," said Vazquez, the star catcher for St. Joseph High School.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Cadets seized the opportunity. Then squeezed it, and stomped on it for good measure.
In an outcome stunning both in its decisiveness and given the quality of the competition, the St. Joseph seniors will get the chance to play in their first conference final following a convincing 13-0 win over Darien at Sacred Heart University.
The top-seeded Cadets (19-3) will face New Canaan, a 1-0 winner over Fairfield Ludlowe in the first semifinal, in Thursday's championship game.
"Whenever one of us hits, all of us hit," said Vazquez, speaking with the same energy she used to crush a 4th-inning home run, which accounted for half of her two hits and four RBIs. "There was so much energy in the dugout. It was great that the underclassmen wanted it for the seniors, and the seniors wanted it so badly."
St. Joseph's offensive dominance overshadowed an outstanding effort by freshman pitcher Nicole Williams, who scattered four singles.
Erika Osherow, the Darien pitcher who had been dominating the league during the second half of the regular season, retired the first six batters she faced, striking out the side in the second inning.
But a leadoff walk, a sacrifice bunt and an error following a single by Gardella opened the way for a five-run third inning that broke the game open. Mallozzi had an RBI single and Amy Chacho a two-run base hit.
"I was struggling a couple of games ago but the team really picked me up," Mallozzi said. "We just stick together as a team."
The Cadets added four runs in both the fourth and fifth innings, providing for one of the most anticlimactic semifinal finishes in league history. Vazquez's long home run provided the greatest buzz. "It was 0-2 and I was just looking for a pitch to drive and luckily I made contact," she said. "You go up wanting a single, wanting a hit, wanting to help the team."
Fourth-seeded Darien, the two-time defending champion, will take a 17-5 record into next week's state tournament.
"We just didn't show up today," Blue Wave coach Nick DeMaio said. "Unfortunately once things started going bad we just unraveled. You've got to give Williams the credit. She was better at the end than the beginning. She did a great job changing speeds."
WAVE, OSHEROW NO-HIT MIDDLETOWN IN ROUND ONE
Darien 6, Middletown 0 - After having its hopes for a third straight FCIAC championship hopes dashed a week ago, the Darien softball team returned to action hoping to make a run at the school's first state title.
Part one of the mission is complete thanks to another outstanding performance by Erika Osherow, who fired a no hitter to help the Blue Wave reach the second round with a 6-0 win over Middletown on Wednesday. No 4. Darien will take on Naugatuck at home Thursday for a spot in the final eight.
"(Osherow) had a great game," Darien coach Nick DeMaio said. "She had her control and she stayed ahead. That's the key: if she stays ahead you see this type of game."
While the result was never in doubt, the no-hitter sure was. With one out in the top of the seventh, the Blue Dragons' Ashley Tucker appeared to hit a clean single down the right field line. The fast-traveling ball reached the glove of Emily Moscatello quick enough for her to fire it to first base to get the out.
"That play saved me," Osherow joked. "Defense is everything and I can rely on my team to back me up."
Osherow retired the last 15 batters she faced and struck out nine Blue Dragons. Walks to lead off the first and third innings were the only two blemishes on her excellent performance.
"I just got in my rhythm today," Osherow said. "My catcher (Rebecca DeMaio) backed me up and it was good."
Osherow also carried the load offensively, going 4-for-4 with a pair of hard-hit doubles. Avery Maley went 2-for-2 with a sac fly and two RBI while Emma Hamilton went 2-for-4 with an RBI and Rebecca DeMaio went 2-for-3.
"Middletown is a good team." Nick DeMaio said. "(Blue Dragons' starting pitcher Cara Brainard) did a nice job; we did get some big hits with two outs so I'm satisfied."
Darien scored three times in the bottom of the third to seal the win. Osherow socked a double to lead off and scored on a sac fly by Julia Domiziano. Maley and Rebecca DeMaio each had RBI singles in the frame that provided a comfortable advantage.
"We capitalized on our decisions and the strikes (Brainard) threw," Osherow said. "We just put the ball in play and put the pressure on them."
The Blue Wave have made deep runs in the state tournament in each of the past two seasons, reaching the Class LL quarterfinals a year ago and the Class L semis in 2011. Darien has reached the final once, in 2009.
"The girls know if they don't step it up they won't be around," Nick DeMaio said. "I think we can (make a run); we are capable of doing it. I don't know if we will, but we are capable of doing it."
"We have a drive underneath us," Osherow added. "We knew we had to take it one game at a time but we want this."
WAVE CRUISES PAST NAUGATUCK IN ROUND TWO
Darien 3, Naugatuck 0 - Erika Osherow's stretch of 13 consecutive no-hit innings propelled the Darien High School girls' softball team into the Class LL state tournament's quarterfinal round. Osherow, coming off a no-hit win in the first round of the tournament, pitched a one-hitter, lifting the No. 4 Blue Wave to a 3-0 win over No. 13 Naugatuck at Darien High on Thursday afternoon.
Darien (18-4) earned a rematch with familiar FCIAC foe in Stamford in Friday's quarterfinal round. The Greyhounds' season ended with a record of 15-7.
Osherow allowed only a seventh-inning leadoff single to Kara Klimaszewski. She struck out four batters and worked around one error in each of the first two innings. She did not issue a walk.
The Blue Wave got all of the offense Osherow needed in the second inning by plating a pair of runs. Avery Maley tripled in Rebecca DeMaio with the first run. Emily Moscatello bunted home Maley for the second. Darien added a run in the third as well.
Osherow credited her teammates for coming through defensively and with some timely hits early on.
"Today was all the defense. They backed me up on every play. I couldn't have done it without them," said Osherow, who tossed four no-hitters during the regular season and nearly made it two for two to begin the state playoffs. The Darien pitcher helped her own cause by snaring a few sharply hit line drives back to the pitching circle.
"One hit in 14 innings. She's definitely in a good place right now," Darien Coach Nick DeMaio said. "When she has good command it just makes it so much easier for her, and she's in front of hitters."
"She had command of all of her pitches. She had command of the plate inside and outside," Naugatuck Coach Kevin Wesche added.
DeMaio likes what he sees in his team, overall, this postseason. "A good solid performance, good attitude and good energy," the coach said.
The only thing DeMaio was a little disappointed about was hit team's lack of offense. Darien produced only six hits against Naugatuck pitchers Nina Kosciuszek and Jenna Miller, who pitched the final three innings.
"The first few innings we came out swinging the bats and making some things happen," said DeMaio, adding that the Wave may need more offensive production throughout the game against Stamford.
"It will take more runs than this," DeMaio said of his team's hopes of winning in the next round.
"I think we're definitely ready. It will be a challenge for us but it's part of the journey and we're definitely looking for revenge," Osherow said.
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