NEW BRITAIN - Sarah Strilkauskas’ grand slam helped the Bristol Central softball team score five runs in the bottom of the fourth inning and Ali Holden’s pitching kept New Britain at bay as the Rams earned a 9-2 victory over the Hurricanes on Monday afternoon at Chesley Park.
“Ali Holden and Sarah Strilkauskas are our seniors, our leaders,” Bristol Central coach Monica Hayes said. “We got consistent pitching, like we always do, from Ali and Sarah got a big hit that opened the game up so you can’t ask any more from the two of them.”
The Rams, who were tied with New Britain 1-1 at the time, batted all the way around the order in the bottom of the fourth, which started with McKenzie Lewis taking first base after being hit by a pitch. The next two Bristol Central batter drew walks from New Britain pitcher Gianna Gonzalez to load the bases.
But the Hurricanes got outs on each of the next two at-bats, as Jenna Ptak and Holden each hit into fielders’ choices that resulted in Lewis and Caitlyn Pacitto being called out at home plate.
The Rams broke the one-run tie when Gonzalez plunked Peyton Greger, forcing Mia Santilli home from third. And then Strilkauskas broke the game wide open with a bomb to left field that brought in four runs.
Kayla Beaulieu followed the grand slam with a single and a stolen base but the Hurricanes got the third out before the Rams could do any more damage.
The first three innings of the game were very much a pitching and defensive battle. Both teams allowed only one hit - both singles - in the first inning. Holden worked her way out of a bit of a jam in the second, as Amanda Jacobs drew a walk to open the inning, took second on a fielders’ choice and found her way to third on a passed ball.
Gonzalez and New Britain were the first ones to flinch on Saturday. After drawing a walk and being advanced by a Morgan Greger single and a McKenzie Lewis bunt, Kayla Beaulieu was driven in by Pacitto for the game’s first run.
But the Hurricanes punched back in the top of the third in exciting fashion. With one out and no one on, Paola Bronner smacked the ball over Santilli’s head in center field and bolted around the bases for a game-tying home run.
But the tie did not last, as the Rams put up five in the fourth and added another pair in the bottom of the fifth on a two-run homer by Jenna Ptak.
New Britain did not go quietly, though. This time leading off the sixth inning, Bronner came up with another one-run home run to cut the Rams’ lead just a little bit. But the Hurricanes could not get anything going except a Gabby Roy single following the score.
“This is really great for me because I haven’t hit two home runs in one game ever,” Bronner said with a big smile. “I’m over the moon right now.”
In another tough inning for New Britain, Gonzalez surrendered three two-out walks on four batters, with the third forcing in Bristol Central’s ninth run.
To ice the game, Holden got three outs on four batters, including picking up an assist on the second out. She finished the game having surrendered just four hits and one walk and striking out three.
Bristol Central recorded seven hits and eight walks off of Gonzalez but also struck out three times.
Both teams entered this season with inexperienced rosters but Bristol Central was more successful at overcoming that weakness.
“[There’s] a lot of inexperience in our lineup so I was very impressed with how they handled themselves in pressure situations,” Hayes said. “We got a bunch of bunts down [and] got some big-time hits.”
Josh Kestenbaum can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter: @K_baum30