Fairfield Ludlowe's 11th straight softball victory, fueled by rallies in the fifth and sixth innings Monday afternoon at Sturges Park, contained some good news and bad news for Falcons coach Shari Paci.
She did not like her fielders making three errors that led to Ludlowe falling behind, but she was pleased with the fight in her team, the defense tightening up and the hitters having good at-bats as they stormed back for an 8-4 victory over Norwalk in an FCIAC game.
Similar sloppy defense would put the Falcons' winning streak in jeopardy with games at Greenwich on Wednesday and at Stamford on Friday. Both opponents began Monday with 9-2 overall records.
Ludlowe improved to 11-1 overall and 10-0 in the conference by erasing a 4-2 Bears' lead entering the bottom of the fifth inning. Norwalk dropped to 4-7 overall and 2-7 in the FCIAC after giving up two runs in the fifth inning and four runs in the sixth. The Bears have lost six of their last seven games.
Falcons junior Katie DeCarlo, who smacked three home runs last week, belted a two-run homer in the sixth inning to snap the 4-4 tie. She was 2-for-3 in her other at-bats. Senior third baseman Brenna Martini was on base all four times, went 3-for-3 and was sharp with her glove.
"I think we had a bad first inning," Paci said of Norwak jumping to a 2-0 lead on three hits and a Falcons' error. "But we did bounce back with clutch hitting and timely hitting toward the end of the game.
"Our defense had some lapses. We weren't all there today. I think we're a better team than we showed today."
But Norwalk scored one run each in the third and fourth innings off Falcons' junior starter Brigette Anderson. Both Bears' innings featured two hits but Ludlowe made an error in the fourth. Anderson, who improved to 10-1, gave up 10 hits but no walks. She struck out two Bears.
"I think Brigette pitched hard," Paci said. "A couple of her pitches were a little high. She didn't have the support behind her for the entire game."
But on this day, the Falcons' bats were pivotal in turning the deficit into a comeback victory. They had collected five hits in the first four innings before back-to-back four-hit innings produced six runs combined in the fifth and sixth innings.
"I'm sure their hitters adjust as the game goes on," Norwalk coach Elaine Gratix said. "They hit the ball when they had to hit it."
The Falcons were more successful against Norwalk junior starter Ali Brown in their second and third at-bats against her. Brown, whose record dropped to 4-7, allowed 13 hits and three walks. She struck out one Falcons' batter and was relieved by sophomore Mariah Ventrella with two outs and the bases loaded and Ludlowe ahead 7-4 in the sixth inning.
"I thought she pitched well," Gratix said. "She had a plan and she stuck with it for as long as she could."
Ludlowe's offensive success is by design. DeCarlo said much of Falcons' practices are dedicated to hitters getting many swings. Of her recent power surge, she wasn't so sure why her bat has been sparking Ludlowe's offense.
"I don't know how I did it," said DeCarlo, who picked up her fourth home run of the season, after hitting none as a freshman starter and one in her sophomore season a year ago. "Anna (Rasmussen) started it (rally), then we started driving runners in."
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Fairfield Ludlowe 8, Norwalk 4
NORWALK 201 100 0--4 10 3
FAIRFIELD LUDLOWE 200 024 X--8 13 3
Records: Norwalk 4-7, 2-7 FCIAC; Fairfield Ludlowe 11-1, 10-0 FCIAC. Batteries: N--Ali Brown (L, 4-7), Mariah Ventrella (6) and Samantha Troetti; FL--Brigette Anderson (W, 10-1) and Katie DeCarlo. Highlights: N--Mallory Rochefort went 2-for-3 with a run scored and one RBI. Brown went 2-for-3. FL--Brenna Martini went 3-for-3; Katie DeCarlo went 3-for-4 with two-run home run.