A seemingly comfortable final-inning, five-run cushion had already been whittled down thanks to a home run by Katie DeCarlo, and now the Ludlowe softball team was looking for more.
There were two on, two outs and so it was up to Greenwich senior pitcher Jessie Schelz to deliver.
That's exactly what Schelz did, striking out Colleen Lambert for the final out Wednesday afternoon as Greenwich held on for a much-needed 8-5 victory over visiting Ludlowe in a battle of FCIAC heavyweights.
While the result put the brakes on the 11-game winning streak of the red-hot Falcons (11-2, 10-1 FCIAC), it also snapped a two-game losing skid by the Cardinals (10-3, 8-3), who were coming off back-to-back shutout losses to juggernauts Darien and St. Joseph.
"Two losses in a row was enough," an elated Greenwich coach Mary Beth Fratello said. "We don't want to have to rely on anyone's help to get into the FCIAC tournament, so we really needed this one. We just have to get as many wins as possible over the next few weeks."
One of the reasons Fratello was so happy was the play of a Cardinals defense that helped save the day.
Center fielder Madison Burhans, in particular, had a brilliant day in the field with three sparkling catches, including a home run-saving grab over the fence against DeCarlo -- the Falcons' No. 3 hitter -- in the top of the fifth.
Schelz also did her part, surrendering 10 hits and single runs in the first, third and fourth innings before bearing down when the Cardinals needed her most.
"I was just trying to hit my spots," Schelz said. "Of course I can't say enough about our defense today, especially Madison and (shortstop) Rebecca DeCarlo. When you see them making plays like that and giving you that kind of support, it gives you a lot more confidence."
DeCarlo's two-out, two-run double highlighted a four-run second inning by Greenwich, which took advantage of two early Ludlowe miscues and jumped out to a 5-1 lead.
Looking for some late insurance against Falcons junior Brigette Anderson, the Cards would strike for three more in the sixth.
Cleanup hitter Erin Ferguson, who helped drive up Anderson's pitch count to 128 with what seemed like an endless amount of foul balls, drove in her second run of the game with a sac fly to deep center.
"We have the kind of team that's always going to try and battle back but it was an uphill climb from the second inning on," Ludlowe coach Shari Paci said. "I think in the end, all those pitches took their toll on Brigette. We just have to learn from this moving forward and get back on track."
Greenwich 8, Ludlowe 5
LUDLOWE 101 100 2--5 10 2
GREENWICH 140 003 X--8 11 2
Records: L 11-2 (10-1), G 10-3 (8-3); Batteries: L Brigette Anderson (L, 10-2) and Katie DeCarlo; G Jessie Schelz (W, 9-3) and Erin Ferguson.