NAUGATUCK — No. 4 seed Buffalo kept its season alive on Saturday afternoon in what was an elimination game for the Class A Region 4 Section 1 softball tournament as the Bison knocked off No. 3 seed Tug Valley 7-4.
“We’re really beat up, our pitcher is playing hurt and our catcher is hurt from a play at the plate against Sherman,” Buffalo head coach Bill Rasnake said after the win. “I owe everything to the girls tonight, they gutted it out and deserve all the credit. Overall it was a great team win, it really was.”
Buffalo (13-11) will have a rematch at No. 1 seed Sherman (14-4) in another elimination game at 6 p.m. Monday.
The Bison took the lead Saturday in the top of the first inning and never looked back as Marshall commit Abby Darnley ripped a solo home run over the center-field fence to give her team the 1-0 lead.
Later in the inning Rachel Affolter pushed the lead to 2-0 when her RBI double scored winning pitcher Alex Hill, who had reached base with a single.
The Panthers (17-14) got one of the runs back in the bottom of the first as Cassidy Griffey lined a ball into the left-field corner and zoomed around the bases for her second inside-the-park home run in as many days to trim the Buffalo lead to 2-1.
Buffalo had its biggest inning in the top of the third as Hill ripped a two-run triple into right-center to push the lead to 4-1. It swelled to 5-1 when Hill scored on a RBI groundout from Rilsey Russell.
The Panthers scored their second run in the ensuing half of the third inning after Griffey walked and came around to score on an RBI triple from Autumn Hall to cut the lead to 5-2.
Buffalo got the run back in its half of the fifth inning when Darnley drew a walk and scored on a Tug Valley error to push the lead to 6-2.
The Panthers threatened in the bottom of the sixth when Griffey delivered an RBI double that scored Haleigh Muncy to make the score 6-3.
After Alyssa Newsome drew a walk to load the bases, Autumn Hall came to the plate representing the go-ahead run. Buffalo got out of the jam as Hall ripped a hard-hit grounder that Bison third baseman Dara Harmon snagged and stepped on the bag to leave the runners stranded.
Buffalo scored its final run in the top of the seventh as Katie Darnley singled, stole second, advanced to third on a throwing error and scored on a RBI groundout from twin sister Abby Darnley to push the lead to 7-3.
Tug Valley junior Emily Hatfield led off the bottom of the seventh with a solo home run to center field but that was all the Panthers could muster as Hill retired the final three batters in order to end the game.
Hill earned the win with a complete game, allowing four runs on 11 hits while striking out six and walking two.
Hall took the loss for Tug Valley as she was tagged for the seven runs (five earned) on six hits and struck out 14 with two walks.
Rasnake hopes his young team will use the win against Tug Valley as a confidence boost against Sherman.
“These girls know that Tug Valley is a really good team,” Rasnake said. “We’ve got 11 freshmen and I’m hoping that picking up a win over a good team like Tug gives these girls a little more confidence and excitement that they can go on to the next round and keep winning.”