Word was rippling around the Darien High School softball field through texts and tweets that every lower seed in the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference softball quarterfinals had won. Darien's Olivia Gozdz stood in at the plate in the bottom of the eighth, trying to help her second-seeded team avoid the same fate against seventh-ranked Fairfield Warde.
Gozdz worked a walk in a seven-pitch at-bat and was sacrificed to second by Courtney Bell. Suddenly, Gozdz did her best Johnny Damon impression, noticing nobody was covering third. The Blue Wave catcher scampered over, putting her 45 feet from scoring the winning run.
With Kelly Fahey at the plate, Warde pitcher Heather VanDerheyden threw a wild pitch. Gozdz raced home to move Darien to the FCIAC semifinals with a 5-4 win in eight innings.
"We've been put in a couple tough spots this past week when we lost to Warde on Friday and Westhill on Sunday. This really tested our heart out there," Gozdz said. "Our coaches keep telling us that things are going to work out for us in the end, and it seems that way."
Fairfield Warde had runners on first and second in the top of the eighth and was aiming to be the fourth lower seed to knock off a higher-ranked team Tuesday. Darien starter Jess DeMaio, in her eighth inning of work, got Katlyn McCartney to fly out and struck out Shannon Squire to end the extra-innings threat. Warde left seven runners on base and had two more picked off by Gozdz from behind the plate.
Darien jumped out to a 3-0 advantage in the third inning, but Warde stormed back in the sixth with four runs on five hits to take the lead. Gozdz was the tying run as well, stealing second and moving up to third when Warde shortstop Stacy DiLeo did not cover the base in time. Two pitches later, Fahey blooped a single that just barely got over the glove of DiLeo to drive in Gozdz, tying the game, 4-4.
"I totally thought she was going to catch that," Fahey said with a laugh. "I was just lucky there. They had a lot of good hits, but I think luck was just on our side."
Darien moves on to the FCIAC semifinals to be held Thursday at Fairfield University. The Blue Wave will take on sixth-ranked Stamford at 5 p.m.
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