Masuk bests St. Joseph again, this time in Class L softball quarterfinals

MONROE — While Masuk and St. Joseph hail from different conferences, the two squads have developed arguably the greatest softball rivalry in Connecticut.

Last year they met in the Class L finals, a Masuk win, and this year in the regular season the Panthers took home another victory.

On Friday when they met again, this time in the Class L quarterfinals, Masuk’s Kat Gallant continued to be kryptonite for St. Joseph, leading the Panthers to a 2-1 win.

Top-seeded Masuk now has a date with one of the surprise teams of the tournament, No. 21 Bristol Eastern, which outlasted No. 4 East Haven 9-7 on Friday.

Something about meeting St. Joseph in the playoffs channels Gallant’s inner superhero, dating back to last year’s championship when she threw a complete-game shutout and hit a two-run home run to supply all the offense in a 2-0 win. Friday was eerily similar.

“It was pretty much a repeat of last year,” Masuk coach Leigh Barone said. “Any time we play St. Joe’s, it has that championship effect. They always put up their best game, we always put up our best game no matter when we play them.”

Though it was similar in regard to Gallant’s dominant performance, this meeting brought far more drama with a tie game after six innings.

With two outs in the bottom of the seventh and catcher Izzy Viglione on first base after a hit, Gallant stepped up to the plate with extra innings looming. Gallant lined the first pitch she saw off the center-field fence and Viglione sped around the bases for the walk-off victory.

“I just knew I had to put it in play,” Gallant said. “To be honest, I just didn’t want to go into international tiebreaker because I would have been so nervous, so I just tried to put it in play to do my part.”

Pitching-wise, Gallant didn’t replicate the shutout, but allowed only one run on four hits and three walks while striking out 12.

“That is just how she is, she’s just a good player all around,” Barone said. “People don’t realize how hard it is to be that dominant on the mound, while being dominant at the plate as well, and she has been that forever since she’s been with the program. This is her senior year, and she wants it so bad.”

Masuk didn’t get its first hit until the fourth inning and would rally to score its first run on an infield single by Sarah Falcone.

St. Joseph responded in the top of the fifth when junior Niamh Dougherty doubled in a run to tie it at 1-1.

“It is a little nerve-wracking playing them this early, but we knew if we got through this that we would have a pretty good chance going forward,” Gallant said. “It’s always fun playing them; it’s always a really close game that tests our strength.”

Both Gallant and St. Joseph pitcher Lauren Wasikowski threw up zeros until Gallant’s walk-off double.

“It’s huge, all of us wanted to move forward and we knew it was going to be a tough game,” Gallant said. “Everybody came out with a lot of energy, and we knew that we could do it if we put our best out there.”

Wasikowski turned in a strong performance in her own right, completing 62/3 innings while allowing two runs on seven hits and four walks while striking out 11.

“It’s been like that all year,” St. Joseph coach Jeff Babineau said. “These guys put up a great fight today. Gallant is very hard to hit, we got a run off of her and got people in scoring position all day but she shut us down when she had to. It’s hard.”

It was an atypical season for St. Joseph, which entered the tournament as the No. 9 seed after suffering losses to a couple of out-of-state teams, Fairfield Ludlowe, and two one-run losses to Masuk and Danbury.

“We knew they had some losses, but all of their losses were quality losses,” Barone said. “They’re a great team who played out of state, they played us, they play teams like Ludlowe in the FCIAC so even though they were in the middle of the ranking, we know they’re a one or two seed.”

While the St. Joseph season was cut short in the quarterfinal round, the future looks bright for the Cadets.

“Our team is very young,” Babineau said. “We have a few sophomores that are playing, and a couple of freshmen. It’s good that they got this experience, and they’ll learn from it and go. We’ll come back next year and jump right back into the saddle.”; @AldamWill


ST. JOSEPH 000 010 0 — 1 4 0

MASUK 000 100 1— 2 7 0

Records: St. Joseph 18-7; Masuk 24-1

Batteries: S-Lauren Wasikowski (L) and Kelsey Flanagan; M-Kat Gallant (W), and Izzy Viglione.