West Hartford’s Hall High School hosted Northwest Catholic Thursday afternoon.
By Paul Palmer
Brooke Popella had the big hit, a three-run home run over the right field fence as part of a 10-run sixth inning for Northwest Catholic as the Lions took control of a back-and-forth game with Hall, earning a 23-11 victory on Thursday afternoon at Hall.
Popella dominated all day reaching base six times, scoring six times, and knocking in four runs on a double and HR. For Hall, the game marked the end of a brutal week that saw the Titans play and lose five games, including both ends of a doubleheader with Simsbury on Wednesday.
The Lions scored twice in the first inning without the benefit of a base hit, but Hall matched those runs in the bottom half of the first. Mollie Reynolds opened with a single and a stolen base, before coming in to score on Emma DeMichele’s single. Jane Grove drilled a triple off the right field fence to score DeMichele. Grove tried to score on Isabella Mangini’s ball back to the pitcher. The throw from Jessica Burgeson to catcher Anna Collette was a little high and it looked as if Grove made it under the tag, but the umpire ruled she did not.
Hall would add three more in the second on a fielder’s choice and singles by DeMichele and Jordan Frankel. Popella and Northwest answered with three of their own in the bottom half. Popella smacked a run scoring double and she came around to later score on a passed ball, as did teammate Olivia Knorr later in the inning.
The back-and-forth battle continued an inning later when the hosts used a double from DeMichele, singles from Margaret Kinney and Mangini, combined with some poor defense from the Lions to score four more and take a 9-5 lead after three. Northwest added three in the top of the fourth, but Hall avoided further damage by turning a 5-3-2 double play. The play started with a groundball to third, the throw to Mangini at first was in time to get the hitter, and she then fired home to catcher Molly Grove to nail the Lions runner at the plate and keep it at 9-8.
Jane Grove led off the bottom of the fourth with a first pitch double to left. A sacrifice fly by Mangini moved her to third, and then Ava Zukowski-Manning drove in the run on her fielder’s choice. Amazingly, the Titans pulled off another double play in the top of the fifth inning. With two on and one out, Jaselenne Pinos popped the ball up between the pitcher and shortstop. What should have been an infield fly rule out was never called, and when the ball hit the ground, Frankel fired to third to get the force and Hall then went to second to get the last out as the Northwest Catholic runners were stuck in a bad spot not knowing if the ball would be caught in the air or if the infield fly call would be made.
Hall made it 11-8 in the bottom of the fifth, but the wheels came off for the Titans in the top of the sixth. After the first two batters walked, Popella took the Sophia DeLuca offering and drove it over the right field wall for the opposite field three-run home run, tying things at 11. Northwest Catholic would then score seven more runs, without a base but as walks, errors, hit by pitches, wild pitches, and passed balls added up to a nightmare inning that ended with the Lions up 18-11. Things got even worse for Hall as their starting pitcher DeLuca was forced out of the game at 13-11 with a sore arm.
Hall went quietly in the bottom of the sixth and Northwest tacked on five more in the top of the seventh – while only getting two hits. Burgeson had a perfect seventh for Northwest Catholic and got the complete game victory. She also contributed a double to the Lions offense.
Hall was led by DeMichele who collected two singles and a double, Jane Grove with a double and a triple, and Reynolds who reached on a single, a walk, and an error. The win moved Northwest Catholic to 4-12 and marked its first back-to-back wins of the season. Hall fell to 1-55 and has dropped eight straight. The Titans will play three of their final four games – including one with Conard – on the road before finishing at home with Avon on the 23rd. Northwest Catholic has four games remaining in the season – with an even split of two on the road and two at home.
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