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Ledyard softball ends a long day with a pair of wins over NFA

Norwich — Among the words Samantha Money used to describe Saturday's Ledyard High School softball doubleheader against Norwich Free Academy were "terrible" and "long" ... and that's with Ledyard sweeping both games.

"I was just a little hungry," Money, Ledyard's junior shortstop, said with a laugh. "I just wanted a Subway sandwich. I'm a bottomless pit. ... It was really tiring but as long as we get games in, as long as we just play ... we got to play two games against NFA."

Money was a combined 6-for-8 with six RBI, a home run and two doubles in the pair of Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I games and Paige Perkins was 6-for-7, leading unbeaten Ledyard to a 14-1 win in six innings in the opener and an 8-6 victory in a game two slugfest.

Ledyard's Sara Rivers was the starting pitcher in both games but was relieved by Aaliyah Amidon after three innings of the first game with the Colonels leading 10-1.

"Coming into the second game there was even more momentum. We knew it was more important because we could win both," Rivers said. "We were more pumped up. We really came out wanting to win the second game."

NFA tied the second game 2-2 in the top of the fourth inning on back-to-back doubles by Madison Waltke and Leah Manke, a sacrifice bunt by Gemma Peterson and an RBI single by Brenna Comeau.

Ledyard scored three in the bottom of the inning, getting Perkins' sixth straight hit on the day and an RBI double by Money to go along with two NFA errors. The Colonels (5-0, 5-0) made it 6-2 with a run in the fifth on an RBI double by Layla Lasisomphone.

NFA got two back in the sixth when Melainey Tackling rifled a ball to the right-field fence for an RBI double and later scored on an RBI groundout by Tessa Hospod. Ledyard answered, though, with two in the sixth on an RBI double by Rivers and a run-scoring single by Iyana Kirvan to make it 8-4.

NFA (2-3, 1-2) closed the scoring with two in the seventh on a two-run home run by Waltke, the Wildcats' freshman shortstop. NFA had 10 hits in the game but made four errors in each half of the doubleheader to provide Ledyard with a number of extra scoring opportunities.

NFA won the ECC Division I tournament and played for the Class LL state championship in 2019, but graduation losses the last two seasons resulted in a game two lineup Saturday which featured five freshmen and sophomores, including freshman pitcher Hailey Smith, one of three NFA pitchers who saw time in the doubleheader.

Ledyard, meanwhile, won the ECC Division II tournament in 2019 and, following a 2020 season which was canceled due to COVID-19, returns just about everybody. The Colonels, however, are playing a Division I schedule for the first time, something which required an adjustment to start the season.

"We knew there was a lot of talk about us being one of the better teams," Robinson said. "But we had to work hard. After our first two games we were 2-0 but the vibe wasn't there. We had to have a balance between being serious and having more fun."

Ledyard had 14 hits in the first game, including home runs by Shailyn Williams and Amidon. Money homered in the third inning of game two, one of 12 hits for the Colonels.

The doubleheader was one of 12 overall Saturday for baseball and softball teams in the ECC. The twinbills were designed to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 — fewer bus trips, for instance — and to alleviate what can be a shortage of buses by putting the games on weekends.

"The spirit was not that of gamesmanship, win or lose," Ledyard athletic director Jim Buonocore said of the introduction of doubleheaders this season. "It was so that we can get from start to finish (in light of COVID)."

"I like it," said Robinson, whose team has two more doubleheaders scheduled this season against Bacon Academy (May 8) and Stonington (May 22). "I don't know if I would want it to continue (past this season). But I like games. I'm a game gal, get the games in and then either celebrate or work harder. I don't dislike it but I can see where it might be difficult for people with only one pitcher. We're lucky to have three."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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