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Softball

Cougars walk off with win

Hautanen’s seventh inning single gives ConVal 4-3 victory over rival Conant in front of packed crowd

  • The ConVal softball team defeated Conant 4-3 with a walk-off win on Monday, May 6, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Conant 4-3 with a walk-off win on Monday, May 6, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Conant 4-3 with a walk-off win on Monday, May 6, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Conant 4-3 with a walk-off win on Monday, May 6, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Conant 4-3 with a walk-off win on Monday, May 6, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Conant 4-3 with a walk-off win on Monday, May 6, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Conant 4-3 with a walk-off win on Monday, May 6, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Conant 4-3 with a walk-off win on Monday, May 6, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Conant 4-3 with a walk-off win on Monday, May 6, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Conant 4-3 with a walk-off win on Monday, May 6, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Conant 4-3 with a walk-off win on Monday, May 6, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Conant 4-3 with a walk-off win on Monday, May 6, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • Conant senior Kelsey Smith threw two no-hitters and finished with 12 wins and 146 strikeouts.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

ConVal senior Ana Hautanen was just looking for a pitch she could handle.

After striking out and weakly grounding out to Conant senior pitcher Kelsey Smith in her previous two at bats, Hautanen just wanted to put the ball in play. With the tying and winning runs in scoring position and no outs in the last of the seventh, Hautanen just wanted to put her mark on the game.

After a passed ball allowed junior Bryanna Lindsay — who reached after being hit by a pitch — to score from third to tie the game, Hautanen grounded a single up the middle to plate Katie Walker for a 4-3 walk-off win in front of a packed crowd under the lights at Adams Playground on Monday.

“I knew I just had to hit the gap,” said Hautanen. “It was kind of inside and inside pitches are not my favorite, but I had to put my hands to the ball and hope to hit it.”

Entering the last of the seventh, it looked as though the Orioles would pull off their second straight one-run win in as many years over their higher division rivals.

Conant held a 3-2 lead and outside of single runs in the second and fifth innings, Smith had really kept the Cougars in check. She had set down ConVal’s 3-4-5 hitters in order in the sixth and only needed three more outs.

“That Conant team is as good a team we’re going to face all year and Kelsey’s as good of a pitcher we’ll see all season,” said ConVal coach Jim Coppo.

But Smith’s 0-2 pitch hit Lindsay on the left arm and her low throw to first on Walker’s nub in front of the mound got past Ivy Chalke and went out of play, putting two runners in scoring position. The situation was not exactly what the Orioles expected to be facing.

“We just kind of fell apart,” said Conant coach Tom Lambert. “How many errors are we going to make and unearned runs are we going to allow?”

And the Cougars took advantage of the Orioles’ miscues.

“I knew I was the tying run and I had to get home,” said Lindsay. “As soon as the ball left her hand I knew it wasn’t a perfect pitch and as soon as it went by the catcher I was gone.”

The win put ConVal at 8-1 and in a tie for second place in Division II prior to Wednesday’s home game with Milford.

“It’s the mentality that we have. You leave us hanging around and we’re going to do something,” said Coppo. “The kids believed right to the last pitch that they were going to make something happen.”

For Conant, it was just the second loss of the season, as they fell to 8-2 going into Wednesday’s contest with Mascenic, and also snapped a three-game winning streak. Entering the game, Smith had not allowed a run in her previous 15 innings and stretched it to 16 before Walker’s bases loaded sacrifice fly with no outs in the bottom of the second gave ConVal a 1-0 lead. Lauren Mackey led off the inning with a single, followed by walks to Courtney Fisher and Lindsay. But the senior lefty struck out back-to-back Cougars to get out of the jam. And ConVal never really threatened again until the fifth.

“I didn’t expect us to give up any runs,” said Lambert. “We have the team to do it, but we’ve got to step up and make the plays.”

The Orioles, on the other hand, finally got things going in the top of the third against Fisher. After Fisher struck out five in the first two innings and the first two to begin the third, Chalke earned a walk following a long foul ball down the left field line. Senior Teresa DiTommaso also walked and Vanessa Lemire recorded Conant’s first hit to score Chalke. Then Smith helped her own cause with a double to left that scored DiTommaso and Lemire for a 3-1 edge.

But after the top of the third, neither offense did much over the next few frames. Both Smith and Fisher settled down. Fisher only allowed two hits the rest of the way, including a two-out double in the top of the seventh to Chalke

Smith allowed one hit between the third and fourth innings and had two outs in the fifth when ConVal sophomore JoEllen Racicot singled. Racicot broke for second on a bunt attempt by freshman Sasha Brock and Conant catcher Heather Bilodeau’s throw went into center field, allowing Racicot to reach third.

Brock missed another bunt attempt, but the ball got far enough away from Bilodeau for Racicot to sprint home and cut the Conant lead to 3-2.

“From the minute we stepped on the field we knew we were going to have to play our hardest at all times,” said Hautanen. “We knew we were going to be in a battle.”

Fisher struck out three in the seventh, working around Chalke’s double, setting up the walk-off win.

Hautanen had been in that kind of pressure situation before and came through. She hit a two-out, two-run double in the top of the seventh that plated the tying and winning runs in a 4-3 victory over John Stark on April 26.

“I hadn’t been performing at the plate earlier, but I felt like it was just what I needed,” said Hautanen of the scenario.

The game was billed as a pitchers’ duel and Fisher and Smith did not disappoint. Fisher struck out a season-high 16 and allowed four hits and five walks. Smith fanned nine with four hits and four walks. Smith was also the only hitter in the game with two hits, including her two-run double in the third.

“I’m not going to lie, we’re lucky to get out of here with a win because Conant’s a good club,” said Coppo. “I was hoping we wouldn’t have to hit in the bottom of the seventh, but I knew coming here it was going to be a one run game.”

Both teams return to action on Monday, as Conant hosts Monadnock and ConVal travels to Merrimack Valley.

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