Any questions about the CSWA No. 3 ranked Fairfield Warde softball team's toughness were answered in Wednesday's 4-2 loss to undefeated, league-leading and No. 1, Westhill.

In the top of the first inning, the ranked Vikings (11-0) stacked capitalized on a single, two doubles, and a Warde error to score three runs. Six of the first 10 Mustangs at bat struck out, an invitation for a team meltdown.

Instead, Warde (10-1) made great defensive plays, loaded the bases in the sixth and seventh innings, outscored the two-time county champs 2-1 over the final six innings, and came one solid hit short of tying the score.

"I think if we had one more inning, we would have caught up to them and actually gone ahead," said Warde Head Coach Gary Quiricone. "We caught up to their pitching, we were on target with their hitters, and I think we kept our poise in the middle of the game and the end of the game to come back like we did.

"I'm proud of this team for doing that," Quiricone continued. "One more inning, one more out, it would be a different game."

After the initial three Vikings batters had scored, the Mustang defense held fast in the first, with catcher Alyssa Borowy firing a pinpoint pickoff throw to shortstop Stacey DiLeo for Westhill's final out.

For the next six innings, the Mustangs would play error-free ball, with scattered fielding gems mixed in. DiLeo and second baseman Heather Vanderheyden would make diving stops that robbed Vikings of extra--or any--bases.

When Westhill's Cassandra Kish hit a one-out triple in the fifth, Warde pitcher Gina Treglia fielded Jen Joseph's bunt, held Kish at third, and methodically threw to first, beating Joseph by two steps and making the choice on the next batter's infield ground ball a no brainer.

"If they get that one extra run there, we're playing further in the catch-up situation," said Quiricone. "Holding that run back put us in the last inning with the tying runs on base. That was a huge difference on that one play. If we just got one more hit here, it is a tie ball game."

The Mustangs needed that one more hit a frustrating number of times.

Treglia pounded a single to right center field to open the fourth inning. Just before Borowy's followup double, courtesy runner Elizabeth Shimei got caught off base, eliminating probable RBI situation.

Summer Anderson whacked a one-out single in the sixth, moved to second on Treglia's second single and to third when Borowey walked. Anderson scored when the Westhill shortstop bobbled Kaitlin McCarthy's ground ball. Andrea Debernardis, courtesy running for Treglia came up just short of scoring on a passed ball. With runners on second and third, and the Mustangs needing that one hit, Bianca Passaniti was called out on a pitch that Warde fans saw as ankle high.

Nikki Schettino led off the seventh with a single up the third base line and advanced to third as Lauren Ward and DiLeo drew one-out walks. Anderson's infield sacrifice scored Schettino, and with runners on first and second, Treglia's fly ball to center field dropped right into Viking Ali Souza's glove, ending the Mustangs' unbeaten streak.

"It was a game of two competitive softball teams going at it," summarized Quiricone. "You go back to that first inning and if that first inning goes away, it's a totally different game. Next time we meet them, hopefully we're not going to have that kind of inning. Rest assured next time we meet them [in the FCIAC tournament], we'll totally be ready for them."

The road to the FCIACs continues tough for the Mustangs as they travel to take on the state's No. 9 team, Trumbull, on Monday at 4 p.m.