The eighth-ranked Fairfield Ludlowe softball team took the league by surprise. After taking the last spot in the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference tournament on the final day of the regular season, the girls took down unbeaten Westhill, earning their first-ever appearance in the conference championship game against fellow first-timer Darien.
"It meant so much for us to get here," Junior Maggie Lapolla said. "Everyone was surprised that we made it this far."
One misplayed ball and some heads-up base-running was all it took to dash Ludlowe's hopes. Darien's Nicole Buch hustled home in the bottom of the seventh on a sacrifice fly in foul territory to walk off with a 4-3 win and the FCIAC championship.
Buch led off the bottom of the seventh with a single to center. It was misplayed by Falcons freshman centerfielder Colleen Lamberty, allowing Buch to stretch her hit into a triple. Ludlowe pitcher Aliza Guerrero intentionally walked the next two batters.
Courtney Bell then hit a routine pop-up in foul territory that was caught by Brenna Martini. The Ludlowe third baseman stumbled after the catch, allowing just enough time for Buch to score the winning run. Buch was named tournament MVP.
For the first two innings, the Falcons had no trouble getting on base but struggled to make it home. By the top of the third, they trailed, 2-0.
The Falcons made their comeback in the third. Freshman Brenna Martini hit a single to score senior Elizabeth Knuff. Two at bats later, when Lapolla stepped up to the plate, junior Brooke MacLean stole second and sophomore Emily Nelson stole home. On the next pitch, Lapolla hit a long double to score MacLean, giving Ludlowe a 3-2 lead.
At the top of the final inning, the score was tied, 3-3. Junior Jennifer Hsieh, Nelson and Martini loaded the bases with only one out. Darien pitcher Jessica DeMaio got the second out on an infield fly, followed by a strikeout, leaving three runners stranded.
Buch said after the game that she was impressed with Ludlowe's performance. "I give them a lot of credit. They beat No. 1 seed Westhill and then made a really tough game for us."
Ludlowe will try to make another improbable run starting Tuesday when it takes on Staples in the first round of the Class LL state tournament.
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