By ryan buck
In the aftermath of an 8-3 victory over Southington on Friday at Candlelight Knolls, the Matthews High softball team mugged for the cameras.
Each of them held up three fingers, signifying their third consecutive Division IV district crown. It can also be said the Mustangs used five runs in inning three to pull away from their Northeastern Athletic Conference rival for the third time this season.
Junior Tabitha Granelly was quick to share the love.
“I can’t even explain it to be honest,” she said. “Three years in a row we came out with a strong team. We came out focused. I couldn’t ask for a better pitcher, better catcher, a better infield, a better outfield, a better coach.”
Granelly was 3 for 4 with two RBIs and two runs scored. It was a Mustang celebrating her first district title, though, who kept the Southington off the board.
Cheyenne Eggens faced the minimum through three innings and wasn’t fazed by the playoff atmosphere. The tall freshman right-hander notched 12 strikeouts.
“You’ve always got to keep focused on the goal and even when they’re hitting and they’re scoring runs, you have to keep your composure,” Eggens said.
Three straight hits from Maddy Nicula, Granelly and Jessica Marsico score one run to kickoff the pivotal third inning. Granelly beat the throw from first on a sacrifice bunt for a 2-0 lead.
Maddi Grimes’ run off a dropped fly ball and scores from Jenna Siefert and Hollie Shreves pushed the lead to 5-0. Nicula added another run in the following inning.
The second time through the batting order seemed to help the Mustangs.
“Usually it takes us about a round to get up and see the pitcher and do what we need to do, but we always have confidence and never get down,” Granelly said.
The six-run cushion was also a big boost for their starting pitcher.
“It’s like I can finally breathe!” Eggens laughed. “It makes me feel a lot better when I don’t have to 100 percent worry about everything.”
Southington showed signs of life in the sixth, however. Back-to back- doubles from Hallie Bougher and Rachel Wilson cut the Wildcats’ deficit to four.
“We went in there and we told them, ‘This is it, make it count,’” Southington coach Lorrie Dietz said. “Especially the seniors, ’cause we were in that part of the order. It was like, ‘It was going to be your last shot.’ And it was a little too late, but we lost to a good team, and that’s nothing to hang your head about.”