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East Lyme - Fitch coach Arielle Cooper called this game a "realistic" one, especially as the Falcons move forward into the postseason.
Ranked seventh in the most recent New Haven Register Top 10 Poll, Fitch had won every game by four runs or more entering Wednesday's matchup against the East Lyme High School softball team.
Fitch won 2-1, getting a two-run homer by winning pitcher Caroline Taber in the first inning and spoiling a three-hitter from East Lyme senior Erica Hill.
"This is a softball game," said Cooper, taking over for coach Kate Prpich on an interim basis while Prpich is on maternity leave. "We're not just going to come out and win 17-1 every day. Everything's a battle. People want to beat us."
Fitch 15-0 overall, moved to 8-0 overall in the Eastern Connecticut Conference Large Division, clinching at least a tie for the league title.
Taber, a sophomore, said she was pitching defensively knowing East Lyme's capabilities. The Vikings, looking to tie Fitch atop the division, are the defending ECC Large Division and ECC tournament champions.
But, after allowing an unearned run in the fourth inning on three hits and a two-base error, Taber pitched three scoreless innings to shut down East Lyme (12-3, 7-2), allowing just one hit during that span.
In the seventh inning, with East Lyme pinch hitter Meghan Welch at the plate, Fitch catcher Taylor Wolfgang caught a foul tip for the second out, eliciting a gleeful reaction from Taber.
"That was awesome. Taylor Wolfgang is so awesome," said Taber, who allowed seven hits, striking out seven and walking one. "It was another out that we needed.
"I was nervous because East Lyme is a great hitting team. They come and smash the ball. I know at any time, one of their girls can hit it out. We all kind of knew it would be tougher than the last time we played them (6-1 Fitch victory). That game wasn't a reflection of their team."
Fitch's Jackie Lewis led off the game with a single to left field. One out later, Taber hit a two-run home run over the left field fence to get the Falcons off to a 2-0 start.
Hill, though, who was unbeaten coming in at 7-0, wasn't done. She allowed just one hit after the home run, a third-inning double by Jo Hobert, and retired the final 13 Fitch hitters. She struck out five, including four in a row at one point, and walked none.
"I hit the spot, but she's trying, too," Hill said of Taber's home run. "I wanted it to be a close game. After the first inning, it was like, 'This is a game now.'"
Samantha Horner, Morgan Lloyd and Megan Lanier had two hits each for East Lyme.
"I love my players. I love the way they played today," East Lyme coach Judy Deeb said. "They came out swinging the bats, a lot more confident. It was the best game (Fitch has) faced all year. The last four or five games, we've been playing very, very well."
Cooper called Fitch "tired." It was the Falcons seventh game in 10 days.
She credited the defense of her outfielders, Haley Flax in left, Cassie Woods in center and Nalissa Amar in right, all of whom contributed to the win. Flax caught the final out, a line drive by Hill with the tying run on first base.
Fitch plays Stonington today and can clinch the division outright with a victory Saturday morning against Bacon Academy at Washington Park in Groton.
"(East Lyme) hit the ball and put it in play and made us do our job," Cooper said. "We're a little tired. We're pushing these girls. But they're just having fun right now and if we keep winning, it's even better."