Gilbert softball topples Thomaston at home, 8-6
WINSTED — The Yellowjackets softball team evened up their season record (4-4) after a hard-fought outing against Thomaston on Monday, April 25 at Walker Field. Gilbert generated some early offense with a sharp small ball effort and aggressive base running, then managed to fend off a Thomaston late-game offensive surge to hold onto the win at home.Jacket starting pitcher Jaime LaChance turned in a scoreless first inning with the assistance of some strong fielding efforts, including an important pop fly snag in foul territory by left fielder MacKenzie Russo.Gilbert opened their offense with a base hit from center fielder Jess Shotwell. Shotwell put herself into scoring position by swiping second, then snagging third shortly after. Rachel Wendell drove Shotwell home with a base hit, then was put into scoring position after an illegal pitch from Thomaston starter Taylor Markey. Russo followed her strong fielding effort by legging out an infield single, then swiped a base of her own. Jen Fritch laid out a bunt single, successfully bringing Wendell in on the squeeze play and putting the Jackets up by two. Shannon Tuozzo was dropped on strikes, but managed to get on base after a passed ball on the final strike. Markey walked in a run with bases loaded and then coughed up a line single to LaChance, who drove in one run. A play at the plate caught Tuozzo for the final out before she could add to the lead. Gilbert led 4-0 heading into the second.LaChance chalked up another scoreless inning in the top of the second, allowing the Jackets to maintain their momentum and keep the bats moving in the bottom of the second. Shotwell worked a walk, but was tossed off the base paths after being called for an illegal jump on her attempted steal. Wendell tallied a walk, and Russo stayed hot at the plate, slapping out another base hit. Wendell scored her second run of the day after a wild pitch opened up some room at the plate for her to steal home. Fritch tallied her second hit of the day and added an RBI as Russo scored, giving the Jackets a solid 6-0 lead heading into the third.LaChance remained strong on the hill, kicking off the third with her first strikeout of the day. Gilbert managed to keep Thomaston off the scoreboard through another inning, still ahead 6-0 going into the bottom of the third.The Jackets were unable to build on their lead in the third and gave up the first run of the day in the top fourth. They were thwarted offensively once again in the bottom of that inning. The Jackets coughed up another run in the fifth after some shaky fielding, but finished out the inning nicely as Fritch snagged a hard line drive out of the dirt and turned a double by throwing out the runner at third before she could tag up.Thomaston offered some dubious fielding efforts of their own in the fifth, allowing the Jackets to score their seventh run of the day and put a runner in position to score at third. LaChance laid down a gorgeous sacrifice bunt to drive in the runner at third and nearly beat the throw to first. The Jackets were ahead 8-2 heading into the top of the sixth.Gilbert made things interesting in the final two innings, after a few bad throws and fielding errors allowed Thomaston to cut the gap to four in the sixth. The Jackets kept generating hits, but were unable to build on their lead and were forced to try to close out the game in the top of the seventh against a surging Thomaston offense.LaChance gave up a walk in the seventh, but was supported nicely by the other half of her battery, as Gilbert catcher Emily Owens tracked and snagged a pop foul near the plate. LaChance began to show some signs of fatigue in the final inning, allowing a runner to score from third off a wild pitch, giving up another walk and then back-to-back singles to load the bases. LaChance remained stoic and forced an easy fielder’s choice at third, then closed out the game by inducing a pop fly to the outfield to lock down her complete game 8-6 win at home.“We are a young team with a young pitcher,” said Yellowjacket head coach Mark Douglass. “But we are able to make things happen when we get on base.” Douglass added that he has seen noticeable improvement throughout his young ball club. “I’m happy with their progress,” he said. “We allowed them to score some runs off our mistakes but we are good defensively and learning to make plays with confidence.”Russo heard her name shouted enthusiastically from the hometown bleachers and Jacket dugout throughout the day and understandably so, as Russo produced two hits and two RBIs and executed a number of crucial plays in the outfield.Shotwell tallied three hits through the day, Wendell had a pair of hits and an RBI, and Fritch finished with two hits and two RBIs.LaChance pitched a complete game for the win, striking out three and walking two. She also contributed a hit, a sacrifice bunt and two RBIs.Both teams left Walker Field at the .500 mark as Gilbert improves to 4-4 and Thomaston drops to 4-4.