May 5—GROTON — Without a game in the last week, Waterford High School softball coach Andy Walker manufactured an intrasquad scrimmage the other day, breaking the team into groups of four and digging out a few sets of "throwback jerseys" so that each had a different uniform.
Then, Tuesday afternoon brought the real thing again, an Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I matchup against Fitch. It took the Lancers a few innings to get going again.
"We were definitely pressing," Walker said. "We were definitely tight. We hadn't been game-tested in awhile. We were definitely feeling a little bit of the tension."
Waterford, though, ranked second in the GameTimeCT/New Haven Register Top 10 state poll, broke through for six runs in the sixth inning, sending 10 hitters to the plate, to beat Fitch 8-1.
The game was tied 1-1 after five innings, with Fitch having tied it on a safety squeeze bunt by Charlotte Cabral to score Maddie Southers in the fourth.
Waterford strung together six hits in the sixth, including a three-run double by Maddie Burrows, who finished with two hits, as well as pitching a two-hitter for the Lancers with 14 strikeouts and no walks.
Tori Kiefer was 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles for Waterford (7-0, 6-0) and reached base four times on a day Walker dropped her from the third spot in the lineup to sixth to take some of the pressure off her. She contributed to the six-run onslaught with an RBI double to left field.
Anna Donahue, Lily Marelli and Angela Colonis each added two hits.
Waterford scored its first run in the second inning on an RBI flair up the middle by Brynn Holmes before Fitch evened the score.
"We really brought it all together in the end," said Kiefer, in her first season on the varsity team after playing junior varsity as a freshman, "bringing each other up and starting to battle. It did feel good. We seem to handle pressure situations pretty well. If we get ourselves in a hole, we're pretty good at battling."
"Once we broke it open and scored a couple of runs, you could see a weight was lifted off their shoulders," Walker said. "They relaxed. (Maddie) started having fun out there. You could see her smiling."
Walker called Kiefer's approach to hitting "workmanlike."
"Hitting is her craft," Walker said. "When she's (taking batting practice) she's thinking about what she needs to do, not just swinging."
The Lancers, who had a doubleheader canceled Saturday with Norwich Free Academy due to COVID-19 protocols, thus creating the hole in their schedule, will now play seven games in the next nine days. Waterford hosts Stonington on Thursday and Montville on Saturday for a doubleheader. Next week, Walker's team has games scheduled Monday (at NFA), Tuesday (at home against NFA), Wednesday (at Bacon Academy) and Thursday (at home against Fitch).
Southers, who doubled in the fourth, and Fiona Taber, who singled in the seventh, had hits for Fitch (6-3, 6-3), which was errorless behind pitcher Charlotte Cabral through six innings.
"Definitely we've been really sharp lately," Fitch coach Kyle Baron said. "We've played great defensive ball. Maddie (Burrows) is a great pitcher. Give her credit. But I'm very happy with our effort. We've been talking all season about 'energy, energy, energy,' and they brought that today."