Brakettes fall to Bluefish in thriller
The Stratford Brakettes’ Battle of the Sexes softball game with the Bridgeport Bluefish was scheduled to be an exhibition of fastpitch softball, but turned out to be much more than that in a contest played before a crowd of 3,927 at the Ballpark at Harbor Yard on Sunday night.
The Bluefish scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning to take a 2-1 decision.
Players smiled, but underlying the grins and playful jawing back and forth, was a will to win.
“When you are used to playing at a high level the competitive spirit is always there,” said Brakette player/coach Amber Radomski. “It was comical at times, but each player wanted to leave with a win. We put the ball in play, and had a bunch of base runners, but they made the plays.
“The thing I realized is that their wingspan was ridiculous. Balls that we hit that would get usually go through to the outfield were being fielded.
“I hadn’t thought of that coming in, but they were able to cover so much ground.”
The game featured three runs, 13 hits, two walks, 26 strikeouts and five runners being thrown out on the base paths.
Cassie Ruscz and Jess Mouse had two singles each, and Mandie Fishback, Britt Lampert, Denise Dennis and Radomski one apiece.
Ramon Castro had two hits, and Matt Iannazzo, Hunter Jones and Joe Bateman one each for the Bluefish.
“It was a good night for softball all around,” Brakettes’ manager John Stratton said. “This was a nice crowd and they enjoyed every minute.
“I’m upset (to lose). I hate to see is a great show, a great game, end that way. If you’re going to end it, end it with a base hit, make it legit.”
With the game tied and two out in the ninth, Bateman beat out a corkscrewed grounder to Fishback at shortstop to end a stretch of six consecutive strikeouts by the Brakettes’ Allyson Fournier.
“I couldn’t even see the ball,” said Bateman, a pitcher by trade. “I decided not to even move my feet and just try to get my bat on the ball.”
Bateman’s hit brought Castro to the plate. Castro had a hit that was played into a triple and scored on Prentice Redman’s sacrifice fly in the seventh inning.
Here, he lofted a high fly to the outfield that was misplayed and Bateman never stopped running from first base.
The relay to the plate was caught, then dropped, and Bateman slid home safely.
Bateman described the play:
“I thought that’s three outs, and then I turned around and saw the ball had been lost in the lights or something.
“I kept running and then said, ‘Oh, oh I’m going to get thrown out.’ But I slid in and saw the ball on the ground.
“This game is fun because it brings people together. On or off the field, anything positive that brings people together is great. There is a reason tons of people turned out.”
Lampert, a Shelton native, led off the sixth with a single and Dennis followed with an infield hit off Stratford Seahawk pitcher Alyson Chiaramonte, who had come on in relief of Bluefish starter Nick French.
Chiaramonte got out of the jam when catcher Billy Gonzalez threw out two runners at third.
Radomski singled with two outs in the ninth and pinch runner Fishback went to second on Mouse’s hit to the right side. Chiaramonte retired Tatum Buckley on a grounder to third.
The Brakettes took the lead in the top of the fifth inning.
Fishback led off and was one of French’s eight strikeout victims, but reached safely when the third strike went to the improvised backstop.
Mouse sacrificed Fishback to second, where she proceeded to steal third on an 0-1 pitch to Buckley.
French notched another strikeout, before Ruscz singled through the hole into left field to plate Fishback.
Iannazzo out of Norwalk inside outed a pitch to left field and hustled out of the box for a leadoff double in the third.
Brakette starting pitcher Brandice Balschmiter got Winston Abreau to pop up his sacrifice bunt attempt, and Ruscz made a sliding catch rushing the plate from her first base position.
Balschmiter then struck out the top two batters in the order — Juan Martinez and Castro. Balschmiter finished her stint with seven strikeouts. She allowed three hits and walked one.
Balschmiter caught Martinez looking at strike three to open the home first and begin a cat-and-mouse game between batter and pitcher.
French, the pitching coach at the College of the Holy Cross, has played modified and fastpitch softball for eight seasons and was a member of the 2008 ASA Modified National champion Granite State Bulldogs.
“The pitchers threw well,” Stratton said. “Brandice was great, and she had pitched to men before with the Chicago Bandits.
“We struggled at the bat. I don’t know if it was depth perception. The big guy (French), y’know, he crow-hopped, and by the time he got done was at 35 feet (after starting at 43).”
Elena Bowman threw out Bateman attempting to steal in the fifth inning. Jones had opened the frame with a single, before Mouse at third handled Bateman’s hot shot and threw to Buckley covering second for the force out.
Chiaramonte pitched the final four innings for the Bluefish.
“It was a great atmosphere to itch in,” she said. “Yes, we know each other, but every at bat was a challenge. Billy Gonzalez (catcher) called a great game.”
Fournier came on to pitch for the Brakettes in the sixth and marked her entry with three consecutive strikeouts.
After the Bluefish tied the game in the seventh, Fournier ended that inning with a strikeout and the next five batters suffered a similar fate before Bateman found his way on board.
When asked if he would like to play the Bluefish again, Stratton said, “That’s up to Bob Baird our general manager.”
When told it might be left up to him, Baird looked at the still half-filled ballpark and gave a thumb’s up.