TRUMBULL — There have been a mixture of close games and blowouts, pitchers’ duels interspersed with slugfests.
The one constant for the Stamford softball team nearly two weeks into the season is the outcomes: six straight wins, the latest a 3-0 shutout of Trumbull this afternoon.
Twenty-four hours after the Black Knights’ defense betrayed pitcher Sara Staley, committing five errors that allowed Ridgefield to fall a run short in a comeback from a 9-2 deficit, it was nearly perfect against Trumbull, making just one miscue.
That came in the second inning, when the Eagles got one of their two singles against Staley, who also hit a batter to load the bases. Staley induced a groundout to end the threat, saw a runner who got a single in the third erased on a double play, then retired the final 13 batters as the Black Knights protected the three-run lead they produced in the opening inning.
“Things were working really well,” said Staley, whose success comes from her pinpoint location rather than pure speed. “A huge part of it was our infield you saw was very clean. Everybody did a great job backing me up so I felt pretty confident out there. Things felt like they were working. We saw what needed to happen yesterday, we needed to clean things up and we came back today and that’s what we did.”
The Black Knights’ biggest critic sits in their dugout, and coach Tony Esposito gave his players a rave review.
“It was basically a clean game for us, it was nice to see,” Esposito said. “We rebounded from having some struggles yesterday. We fell apart. This was a nice comeback against a quality team. Sara pitched a nice game and their pitcher pitched a nice game.”
The Eagles’ Ally Szabo labored in the first inning, giving up three walks and allowing two runners to score on wild pitches. Staley had the only hit in the inning, an RBI single.
Szabo was outstanding the rest of the way, scattering four more hits, but the Eagles for the second day in a row could not overcome a quick 3-0 deficit.
“We have to get out of the first inning,” Trumbull coach Jacqui Sheftz said. “The first five games we’ve been struggling with getting out of the first inning. We need to get the bats out of our hands with a 0-0 score rather than falling behind. If we can do that it will lead to better results.”
The Eagles (2-3) scored 38 runs in their first three games, but just a pair the last two days after an 8-2 loss to Darien yesterday.
Sheftz admitted her players have yet to get untracked.
“We haven’t,” Sheftz said. “We had a tough first five games but I also have a senior team so we did that on purpose, to have early tests and we need to bounce back (on Saturday) versus Ridgefield.”
Lauren O’Neill finished with two hits for Stamford.
The Black Knights have been cast as hunters as well as the hunted. They reached the FCIAC final last year before losing to St. Joseph, yet with most starters back were anointed a favorite, if not the team to beat, in the preseason.
“I think after last year we’re really motivated,” Staley said. “We’re trying to finish strong this year, trying to work as hard as we can and taking it one game at a time.”
So far Stamford and Norwalk are tied with the best records in the FCIAC. Westhill is the only other unbeaten team, though the league again looks top heavy.
“I think the FCIAC is totally equal,” Esposito said. “You talk about Westhill on top and you go down to Darien from there. You can’t get a read on it until you face everybody.”
Esposito said yesterday’s game with Ridgefield, as well as a non-league win over East Haven in which the Black Knights also lost a sizable advantage, has shaped the season.
“No lead is sacred,” Esposito said. “That’s the way we’re looking at it from now on. You’ve got to finish and we did today.”