Tuesday, May 8, 2018

St. Paul softball takes down No. 1 Seymour

St. Paul's Abby Poirot (44) had reason to smile after her team
beat No. 1 Seymour on Monday. Poirot threw a complete game
with 11 strikeouts, and she hit a two-run home run.
(Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
St. Paul softball was on a 12-game winning streak entering Monday's home showdown with undefeated Seymour.
The Falcons had been flying high, but no one was at a higher altitude than the Wildcats, who were ranked No. 1 in the latest state media poll.
On Monday, St. Paul soared to a place that was not very plausible when the season began. The Falcons took down No. 1.
Behind the solid pitching and two-run home run of Abby Poirot, St. Paul stunned Seymour 4-3 in a NVL Copper Division matchup. The Falcons (13-1) ran their winning streak to 13 straight games, and they handed the Wildcats (14-1) their first loss in the last 24 games.
St. Paul players and fans alike celebrated when Poirot got Seymour cleanup hitter Chelsea Avila to fly out to a running Carolyn Marchak in left field to end the battle. Before the final out, anyone bleeding Falcon red and blue was having palpitations.
St. Paul led 4-1 entering the top of the seventh inning, thanks to a solo home run from Jessica Persechino and an RBI single from Katelynn Ouellette, both in the fifth. Seymour's Molly Kennedy led off the seventh with a walk. Poirot got back-to-back strikeouts, but Beca Findley got the visiting Wildcats and their fanbase fired up with a two-run home run over the right field wall. Just like that, it was 4-3.
Jessica Persechino (30) had reason to smile as well after her solo
home run in the fifth inning. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
The Falcons still had the lead, and that was what counted.
"I told them 'Don't worry about the runner on base, don't worry about the batter, because neither one can beat you,'" head coach Gary Hovhanessian told his team before Findley's homer.
He was right, in a way. Seymour still needed a run to tie, and St. Paul required just one more out to win. Still, Avila has the power to knock one over the fence. 
Instead of a tying home run, Poirot got a pop fly to left.
"We beat the best team in the state," Hovhanessian said. "That's all I can tell you."
Hovhanessian really believes Seymour is that good. In preseason stories, he touted the Wildcats as the best team in the NVL and the state, and Becca Johnson as the top player.
"Hats off to Seymour," Hovhanessian said. "Year after year after year they put great teams out on the field."
It turns out St. Paul is a really good team.
"We're playing clear over our preseason expectations, and we're still working on things every day," Hovhanessian said.
Center fielder Ashley Crowley makes sure she secures a key out
in the fourth inning. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
Hovhanessian had told area papers that the Falcons would be an over .500 team. That's reasonable, given St. Paul lost captains Alessandra Milardo, Brigid Johndrow and Brooke Perez to graduation from a team that reached the Class S state final in 2017. Add the losss of Janessa Gonzalez for the season because of a basketball injury, plus a new outfield, and Hovhanessian was looking to temper expectations.
On Monday, that outfield of left fielder Marchak, center fielder Ashley Crowley and right fielder Rebecca Nerbonne came up big. In the fourth inning, Crowley ran down a short fly ball to stop a potential hit. 
Nerbonne made a huge play to end the fifth when he snagged an Avila line drive with a backhand, denying Seymour a potential game-changing hit. The Wildcats had two runners on when Avila stepped to the plate, and the score was still 2-1. Avila laced a ball toward the gap, but Nerbonne made the play.
Marchak ran down Avila's pop fly in the seventh to end the game.
And then there was the pitching of Poirot, who got a chance in the circle last season and gained valuable experience. Poirot struck out 11 and made only one big mistake against an offense that can be lethal.
St. Paul is 5-0 in the Copper, a game ahead of 4-1 Seymour. The teams meet again in the regular season finale on May 17 in Seymour. There's also a chance the two teams could see each other again in the NVL Tournament.
The Falcons have competed with the Wildcats in the past, but they took an important step on Monday. St. Paul now knows that they can beat Seymour.

GALLERY: Here are my photos from Monday's game.

VIDEO: Here is the final out of Monday's game.

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