After losing starting pitcher Heather VanDerheyden to a significant injury to begin the season, and falling to a 3-8 record in the process, it must have felt like it would become a lost year for the Warde softball team after such a successful 2011.
But with the senior back in the circle, the Mustangs will get a chance to build on their recent success in the class LL state tournament.
VanDerheyden struck out 10 and thwarted a late Greenwich rally Wednesday, leading Warde to a 5-4 victory at the Julian Curtiss School in Greenwich.
Warde has reached the Class LL state semis each of the last two years. Warde has won five of eight games since its two-year starting pitcher, VanDerheyden, returned from a back injury.
"She's pitched at 100-percent strength for us today," Warde coach Gary Quiricone said. "I hate to look back at things, but I'm just happy that in the second half of the season we have picked it up. We are putting everything together at the right time."
In a wild finish that featured multiple plays at the plate, Greenwich had runners on second and third with no outs, trailing by two runs and Emily Raviele at the plate. Raviele got a bunt down, but a diving VanDerheyden snared the ball and threw home to get a hard charging Cardinals baserunner to record a precious first out in the inning.
"Obviously it's such an adrenaline rush in the seventh with all the pressure on you," VanDerheyden said. "What I do is try to tune everything out and keep my focus. I want to keep my team in every game."
Although Erica Ambrogio then knocked in a run with a single and advanced to second on the throw, VanDerheyden settled in and retired the final two batters to preserve the win, Warde's fifth in eight games.
"We fought, we just didn't get that one key hit," Greenwich coach Mary Beth Fratello said. "We battled and that's all I can ask for."
Warde overcame blowing a 3-0 advantage, yielding the tying runs in the bottom of the sixth. Kissy Caissy broke a 3-3 tie in the top of the seventh with a RBI single off Greenwich starter Alison Kach, and Shannon Squier followed that by smashing a double to extend the Mustangs' advantage.
"Our kids knew they made a couple of mistakes in the previous inning and it was their way to make up for it," Quiricone said. "It was a great set of hits for us and a great way to battle back."