Amity edges Darien in quarterfinal thriller
So there it was in the bottom of the seventh inning -- two outs, bases loaded, a two-run game and an All-State catcher in the batter's box against an all-league pitcher.
Moments later, it would be Amity that would punch its long-awaited ticket to the state semifinals as Olivia Gozdz's hard hit grounder was fielded cleanly by second baseman Taylor Baker, who threw to CJ Semones for the game's final out, giving the sixth-seeded Spartans a dramatic 4-2 win over third-seeded Darien in a riveting CIAC Class LL quarterfinal matchup Friday afternoon.
The Blue Wave (22-4), the two-time reigning FCIAC champs, were just two outs away from their seventh straight victory, but instead it was the SCC runner-up Spartans (that rose to the occasion and rallied for three runs in the seventh.
Semones started the comeback with a one-out double before scoring the game-tying run on an infield single by Jacqui Ferraiolo. Freshman Jenna DeLorenzo then drove in Emily Fox on a long sac fly to left for the go-ahead run, and finally Corina Zdrowski punctuated the inning with an RBI single to right.
"It was a great team effort and we just had so much confidence in each other," Semones said. "This team doesn't give up."
It was a gutsy performance from senior left-hander Dana Blydenburg, who allowed a two-run double that one-hopped the fence to opposing pitcher Jessica DeMaio in the third inning, but settled down to keep the powerful Blue Wave scoreless the rest of the way.
"We were close to taking (Dana) out (in the sixth when Darien's Kelly Fahey singled with two outs) but she's a senior maybe there was some extra adrenaline there," Amity coach Bob Purcell said. "In the seventh, I knew if we could get to Jacqui we were gonna win. Still, my stomach was in knots at the end of the game."
And for good reason as Brittany Osborn slugged her second double of the game, giving Darien a base-runner with one out. Blydenburg struck out freshman Kelly Vodola for the second out, then walked leadoff batter Erika Osherow and DeMaio.
That loaded the bases and the set the stage for a showdown against Gozdz, a two-time All-State selection who batted over .600 as a junior. Gozdz made solid contact, but right at the perfectly positioned Baker.
"We didn't bring it today," said Darien coach Nick DeMaio, whose team committed four errors. "You can't take days off in these kind of games, but after all that we still were in position to make something happen. A little to the right or left and w eight be having a different conversation. It's emotional because this is a special group. But if I could have signed for an FCIAC title and a trip to the state quarterfinals I would have, no question."
While Amity celebrated its breakthrough victory and berth in the semis against second-seeded Westhill next week, the Darien players like All-FCIAC seniors DeMaio, Gozdz, Fahey and Courtney Bell consoled one another, their brilliant season and four-year run together having come to an end after leading the Blue Wave to the first two league titles in program history.
"As much as this hurts, we've made history together and that's ultimately what we'll hold on to," said DeMaio, who posted a 0.55 ERA and batted over .460 this season. "I think we're set in the right direction moving forward, and that's a good feeling."