Fairfield's 10U softball team cashed in on clutch two-out hitting, solid pitching and several Westport fielding miscues en route to an 8-0 triumph in the District 2 championship game at Haydon Field in Fairfield on Monday night.
With the win, Fairfield advances to the sectional tourney beginning tonight against Redding/Easton at 5:30 at Darien High School.
Hayley Bivens allowed just two hits -- one of those an infield single -- and struck out four batters to lift Fairfield.
"It's a huge win. A huge win. They played their hearts out, and I was proud to lead them," said Fairfield head coach Stephanie Johnson. She cited pitching and fielding -- along with the team members collectively playing as one -- as the keys to victory.
The loss was a tough one for Westport Coach Mark McWhirter and company to swallow. "This is a team we just beat 8-4 less than a week ago," said McWhirter, referring to a pool-play game at the start of the tournament.
Westport had beaten Bivens in that first game but simply couldn't get the bats going in the rematch, as the Fairfield hurler induced ground ball after ground ball for easy outs.
"We didn't hit well and our defense wasn't as solid as it normally is," McWhirter said.
Westport starting pitcher Sophia Alfero escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the first inning, despite falling behind 3-0 to Fairfield's Lizzie Kane with the bags full. Alfero came up with back to back strikeouts to keep the game scoreless.
Fairfield, however, would not be denied in its next bases-juiced opportunity. The home team capitalized on two errors and a wild pitch to scratch out a run for a 1-0 lead in the second. After Bivens reached on an infield single to load the bases Sarah Szuchman blooped a two-run single to short left field for a 3-0 advantage through two frames.
In the top of the fourth Westport tried to get something going, but Fairfield left fielder Bella Bookas threw to second baseman Georgia Hoey to gun down a Westport player trying to get two bases on an error.
The 3-0 score held until the bottom of the fourth. Fairfield had two outs and nobody on base but sprung to life with four runs before the inning ended. Nicole Kerstettler got the rally going with a single and Hoey reached on a hard hit ball that Alfero knocked down but couldn't corral. Kane followed with a crisp single to left center and both runners scored when the ball was bobbled, giving Fairfield a 5-0 cushion. Camryn Johnson added a run-producing single to center. Pinch runner Molly Reynolds stole second, took third when the throw got away, and scored on a wild pitch for a 7-0 lead.
In the bottom of the fifth, Bookas had an infield single, stole second, took third on a wild pitch and scored on a Bivens sacrifice fly to right.
McWhirter, as frustrated as he was with the outcome, was proud of his players gor getting as far as they did.
Fairfield, meanwhile, looks forward to the next tourney.
"It is going to be tough," Johnson said. "But we're motivated, and I have all the confidence in the world in them."
Andy Hutchison is a freelance writer.