STRATFORD—It was a surreal night at DeLuca Field.
The Stratford High softball team was in blue, Bunnell was in pink and the game’s ceremonial first pitch was thrown so fast nobody saw it.
Danni Kemp would have loved it.
In the end, the Red Devils defeated the Bulldogs 13-0 in Round 2 of their rivalrly series, but the night was bigger than that as hundreds of dollars were raised in the Coaches vs. Cancer game.
Proceeds were sent to the American Cancer Society.
Rachel Newall and Riley Matto had three RBIs each while Taylor Lubas, Skyler Boibeaux and Missy Uhrynowski both had three hits to pace the Stratford offense.
Angela Grindrod, who pitched a no-hitter to beat Bunnell 13-0 in the first meeting between the two rivals, fired a three-hitter this time around. She struck out six.
“We just had to zone in and relax,” said Stratford coach Jackie Sherrick, whose team only led 3-0 after two innings. “Big game, big crowd. Later on in the game, we did a good job making adjustments.”
Five runs in the third and fourth innings, respectively, blew the game open and invoked the 12-run mercy rule.
Leading 3-0 in the home half of the third, the bottom of the Stratford line-up got things going.
Bella DeLorenzo started the rally with a walk with Uhrynowski following with a single. With one out, Hayden Smith singled home DeLorenzo and Taylor Lubas beat out a bunt single.
Enter Newall who ripped a two-run triple to blow the game open.
“I think it was just everybody being here, the environment. We haven’t had this in a long time,” said Newall, who had a double, triple and a walk. “After we got that first inning out of our system, we knew what we were going to do.”
Another five spot in the fourth was again started by the lower half of the Stratford order.
Urhynowski—Stratford’s No. 7 hitter—capped her 3-for-3 day with a double to get things going.
With two outs, Lubas singled, Newall walked and Matto (double) and Grindrod followed with RBI hits.
“Obviously, we’re hopefully and mostly doing our job out there,” Matto said. “When we do our job, and everybody pitches in, it works out really well.”
Stratford also played error free ball again—a key component in the Red Devils winning their 13th game in 16 outings this season.
That defense is allowing Grindrod to focus on one thing—throwing strikes.
“It definitely enlightens me and makes me feel comfortable,” the junior left-hander said. “I know I can throw strikes and trust my defense to get the outs we need.”
The defense has made Grindrod a better pitcher her coach says.
“She shouldn’t stress about having to strike everybody out,” Sherrick said. “Our defense has done some really good work this season. We job is to throw strikes and if hitters make contact, it’s our job to play good defense.”
Bunnell looked like a much different team from the first time around, putting the ball into play in two-thirds of its plate appearances.
Ymoni Ortiz served notice it was a different Bunnell team than the first go-round by lacing a base hit to open the game.
She had two hits while Amanda Wallace had one.
“We made a few defensive mistakes, but that’s the learning process with a young team,” Bunnell coach Gary Quiricone said. “I was proud of the way we’ve progressed, and it highlighted itself here today. Early on, we were right with Stratford and we were hitting the ball, just right at them. We’ve had huge improvements in our bats and the way we played defense, so I’m really proud of these girls.”
The evening Stratford with former Stratford High athletic director Bob Baird, a cancer survivor, throwing out the first pitch his granddaughter.
Baird threw an old-school trick play during his moment, whipping the ball into his glove as Matto held another ball up high for the crowd to see after the “catch.”