FAIRFIELD -- Just two victories separated visiting Stamford and Warde heading into Friday's softball game. But the Black Knights put together solid efforts at bat, in the field and on the mound, stretching their winning streak to five games with a 4-1 victory.
Warde did not put forward a fielding effort to be submitted for any defensive instructional videos, and the Mustangs collected just two hits off Stamford starter Sara Staley until the sixth inning, when they broke through for their only run.
Stamford improved to 9-2 overall while lifting its FCIAC record to 8-1. Warde, which has lost two of its last three games, dropped to 6-6 overall and 4-6 in the conference.
Staley, the Black Knights No. 2 pitcher, allowed five hits and four walks and struck out three batters while moving her record to 3-1. Gabriella Natoli (6-6), the Mustangs' starter, gave up nine hits but no walks, striking out one. The Mustangs made five errors behind her -- by dropping or not getting a handle on the ball on plays that weren't too challenging, or by throwing errantly.
"That was our best defensive game of the year," Stamford coach Tony Esposito said. "And we needed every single one of them (good plays). We played great defense today. It was tight to the very end with that play at the plate."
Staley, a freshman, and her fielders survived the bottom of the seventh inning that began with the Black Knights' only error and Warde's first walk in five innings three batters later. With runners on first and second and two outs, Mustangs' catcher Briann West singled to right field. Warde coach Gary Quiricone waved baserunner Shannon McCartney around third base, sending her home.
Black Knights' right fielder Maria Zerena made a perfect relay to first baseman Brianna Arias, who made an accurate throw to catcher Tori Cuscano to nail McCartney in a very close play at the plate to end the game.
"We made some key mistakes when they mixed some hits in there, and you cannot do that in a close game," said Warde coach Gary Quiricone, who was not shy in disagreeing with the home plate umpire's call. "They jumped on that and took advantage of the errors."
Esposito said Stamford's best fielding came with two outs and runners in scoring position.
Black Knights' gems were made by center fielder Lauren O'Neill, Zerena and second baseman Nicole Pease. Pease made a slick play on a grounder with the bases loaded in the bottom of the second and the Black Knights leading 1-0. Pease was sure-handed on making a fielder's choice play at second base with two runners on to end the Mustangs' rally in the sixth inning.
Arias said practice in place of a rainout earlier in the week helped Stamford refocus on defense, leaving the Black Knights reset in the field for positioning and where to make throws.
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Stamford 4, Fairfield Warde 1
STAMFORD 100 012 0--4 9 1
FAIRFIELD WARDE 000 001 0--1 5 4
Records: Stamford 9-2, 8-1 FCIAC; Fairfield Warde 6-6, 4-6 FCIAC. Batteries: S--Sara Staley (W, 3-1) and Tori Cuscuna; FW--Gabriella Natoli (L, 5-6) and Brianna West. Highlights: S--Maddie Santoro had a two-run single. Brianna Arias went 2-for-3; FW--Michelle Treglia went 2-for-3. Sarah Cotto drove in Mustangs' run.