Shelton softball defeats Branford in extra innings

Shelton scored two runs in the top of the ninth inning and held off host Branford 7-6 on Friday. The win was the seventh straight for coach Lindsay Wheeler’s Gaels, now 12-5.

Julia Krijgsman retired Marzia Johnson on a ground ball to Rachel Kiman at third to end the SCC clash. Johnson keyed the Branford attack with a single, a home run, a run scored and an RBI. The Hornets (4-10) had won their last two games.

Amanda Kiman hit a home run, scored two runs, and had two RBIs for Shelton. Rachel Kiman had two hits and scored three runs.

Two Branford errors in the first inning set the table for Krijgsman, who tripled to right field to score Rachel Kiman and Anna Leone.

A Shelton miscue scored a run on Paige Richardson’s single in the bottom of the first.

Shelton’s Kaylee Gura fouled off four pitches before walking on the ninth pitch of her two-out at bat in the second. Amanda Kiman scattered fans gathered down the first base line with a foul ball. She then hit the ball to the gap in right-center field and followed Gura around the bases for a 4-1 lead.

Johnson came on in relief to get the last out. The junior retired eight of nine (Jackie Jenco was hit by a pitch to start the fourth) to give her team a chance to rally.

“Marzia Johnson just had our number,” Wheeler said. “She had a fantastic mix of pitches that threw us all off.”

Johnson hit a home run to dead center leading off the third to make it a 4-2 game. Branford tied things with two-out base hits by Francesco Valletta and Hailey Seah, a pitch that went to the backstop and a throwing error.

Rachel Kiman walked around a pair of strikeouts in the fifth. Krijgsman and Leone followed with hard-earned free passes (multiple foul balls with two strikes). Jenco walked with the bases loaded to give Shelton a 5-4 lead.

Krijgsman set down eight consecutive batters in the middle innings. Taylor Silva tracked down Johnson’s inning-opening drive to left in the fifth.

Krijgsman came out of the circle to make tough plays for the second out in the sixth and first out in the seventh. After a fielding error on Seay’s grounder put the tying run on first in the seventh. Rachel Kiman threw across the diamond for the second out.

Johnson’s single tied the game. She was on second when Leone stopped Carley Ortiz’ bid for a hit by the second base bag and threw to first to send the game into extra innings.

Shelton used a bunch of walks and a pitch to the backstop to take the two-run lead in the ninth.

Foran and Hillhouse remain on the schedule before Shelton plays in the SCC playoffs and the state tournament.

“We need to really focus on jumping out from the start,” Wheeler said. “Defensively we need to continue focusing on basics. We have a solid group of extremely talented girls. As long as we stay positive we can definitely cause some damage in the post season.”

william.bloxsom@hearstmediact.com Twitter: @blox354