Darien softball edged by New Canaan, 2-1

The Darien softball team is on the brink of a state playoff berth. Following a narrow 2-1 loss to rival New Canaan on Monday night, the Wave will have to wait at least one more game to punch their tournament ticket.

In a fitting Senior Night game for New Canaan, the Rams’ only senior softball players made the difference in the game.

Darien catcher Caroline Krueger fires the ball to first base during Monday’s game.

Allison Fitzpatrick’s RBI ground out gave New Canaan a lead it would not relinquish and Gillian Kane delivered a virtuoso performance in the pitcher’s circle as the Rams beat the Blue Wave 2-1 Monday night at a boisterous and jam-packed Orchard Field in Waveny Park.

“It was great,” New Canaan head coach Joel Geriak said. “We didn’t do much with the ball hits-wise but we had timely hitting. Allison Fitzpatrick drives in our first run, our other senior [Kane] closed the game out and defensively we played our best game of the year.”

The win was New Canaan’s third in a row as the Rams are 6-10 on the season and 4-8 in the FCIAC. It was also the first time New Canaan beat the Wave since 2014.

Darien dropped to 7-9 overall and 4-8 in conference play, remaining one win shy of clinching a state playoff berth.

“Maybe when we get win number eight we can relax a little bit,” Darien head coach Nick DeMaio said. “Everybody was kind of tight tonight and I think we came out a little flat. I’m not disrespectful, but it’s the pitcher. New Canaan’s pitcher just did the job. She took control of the game.”

Kane struck out 11 batters, running up her state-leading total to 174 on the year, allowing four hits and five walks in the contest. The Springfield College-bound senior also reached two career milestones on the night — 500 career strikeouts and 29 career wins, both tops all-time for the program.

Meanwhile, Darien’s loss was the Wave’s fifth defeat in their last six games and came despite an impressive outing from freshman pitcher Grace Karas, who matched Kane inning-for-inning.

Karas surrendered only two hits in the game with five strikeouts but was hurt by eight bases on balls, including a leadoff walk to New Canaan’s Hannah Moore who eventually came around to score the game’s first run.

“Grace threw a good game,” DeMaio said. “She’s starting to learn that you can’t take pitches off, that you can’t let up. That’s what hurt her, even in this game. You can’t walk leadoff batters — they always come back to hurt you.”

Both teams had chances to score early in the contest. In the bottom of the first, New Canaan’s first two batters, Kara Fahey and Emma Shullman, drew walks to put two on for Kane with no outs. Karas escaped the jam by getting Kane to line out to center and then struck out the next two Rams to end the inning.

Darien seemed poised to draw first blood in the top of the fourth as senior co-captain Keilani Caruso reached on an error, moving to second on the overthrow. One out later Caruso moved to third on a ground out, but was stranded after Kane ended the inning with a strikeout.

New Canaan broke the ice in the bottom of the fourth. Moore led off with a walk and moved to third after freshman Kendall Somma beat out a bunt with the late throw sailing into right field.

Sophomore Sofia Delicata drew a walk to load the bases with no outs, setting the stage for Fitzpatrick, who pushed a grounder to the right side of the infield, allowing Moore to score for a 1-0 New Canaan lead.

With two outs, the Rams scored the eventual difference-maker as Somma came home on a passed ball to make it 2-0 Rams.

Darien was set up to counter in the top of the fifth as junior Sydney Fagerstrom lined a leadoff double to right. Kane, however, struck out the side to leave Fagerstrom at second.

The Wave finally got on the board in the top of the sixth. Caruso led off with a walk and advanced to third on sophomore Rosali Pirone’s infield single. Junior Caroline Krueger drew a walk to load the bases with no outs.

Senior Stefani Gentile brought home Darien’s run with an RBI groundout to first, pulling the Wave to within 2-1 and moving the tying and go-ahead runs into scoring position. Karas reached on a fielder’s choice bunt to reload the bases, but Kane got the next batter on a strikeout.

With two out, Pirone attempted to steal home on a passed ball, but Shullman was able to retrieve the ball in time and tag Pirone out to end the inning and the threat.

Darien made things interesting in the bottom of the seventh as E’Sachi Smalls and senior co-captain Hailey King drew one-out walks to put the potential tying and go-ahead runs on base.

Kane, however, induced fly balls from the next two Darien hitters to end the game and cap off a huge win for the young Rams.

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Darien pitcher Grace Karas fires in a pitch during the Wave’s game against rival New Canaan on Monday.

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