In the Notre Dame-Fairfield/Oxford rivalry in the SWC's Patriot Division, softball truly is a game of inches when it comes to pitching milestones.
Notre Dame coach Ron Barber recalled how the Lancers missed breaking up Wolverines' pitcher Ashley Guillette's perfect game last year -- in a 12-0 loss in Oxford -- by a matter of inches. On Monday afternoon at Notre Dame, the Lancers did not fail this time in another opportunity at being spoilers.
Lancers third baseman Becky Stefanatos slipped a grounder in the third base/shortstop hole barely out of the reach of Oxford shortstop Megan Sastrum's glove with one out in the seventh inning. Guillette, a two-time All-State pitcher, wound up with a one-hitter in a 5-1 victory, the Wolverines' fourth in a row.
Five days earlier, Guillette shut down Brookfield with a perfect game in a 4-0 win for the defending CIAC Class S champions. Guillette lost the shutout in the fifth inning Monday on two walks, a stolen base and a fielder's choice -- plus some unlikely, wide-scale confusion. The Wolverines' infield thought the second out, a fielder's choice out at second base, was the third and watched as Emily Schofield raced home from second base when Oxford did not react to her dash.
This was Guillette's day. She struck out 16 Lancers and walked two. Guillette struck out the side in the first and third innings and struck out two batters each in the other five innings.
Many of the swinging strikes by Notre Dame batters would best be described as partial waves of the bat as the ball had already crossed the plate. Guillette dominated with velocity and location. Stefanatos had two weak swings before placing the ball perfectly on her clean single.
"Some kids don't have a problem hitting her," Oxford coach Jim Husar said of his junior pitcher, who surpassed 300 strikeouts in each of her first two seasons. But he acknowledged there aren't many of those batters out there.
Guillette improved to 8-1 on the season, which is Oxford's overall record. The Wolverines raised their SWC Patriot Division record to 5-0. Notre Dame fell to 7-3 overall and 2-3 in the Patriot. The Lancers had won three of their previous four games.
"It was nice to get that hit," said Barber, the Lancers' assistant coach last year. He said Guillette is the best pitcher Notre Dame has encountered this spring, "by far." Stefanatos' play in 2014 leads Barber to believe she could be a candidate for All-State honors.
Barber was pleased with the performance of Notre Dame freshman pitcher Shelby Nolan, ordinarily the Lancers' second baseman. Freshman pitcher Madison Letizia (7-1) missed the game because of a back injury, but Barber said he expects her to return later in the week. Nolan gave up seven hits and one walk. She struck out two.
Nolan walked the game's first batter. One out later, Kaley Kempf singled but an error allowed both base runners to score, giving Oxford a 2-0 lead. Kempf blasted a two-run home run way over the Notre Dame left fielder's head in the fifth inning.
Husar was impressed with Nolan, particularly for being the Lancers' No. 3 pitcher. He praised Notre Dame's defense, which committed one error after the first inning and made a few sparkling plays.
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Oxford 5, Notre Dame-Fairfield 1
OXFORD 201 020 0--5 7 0
NOTRE DAME 000 100 0--1 1 2
Records: Oxford 8-1, 5-0 SWC Patriot; Notre Dame-Fairfield 7-3, 2-3 SWC Patriot. Batteries: O--Ashley Guillette (W, 8-1) and Sami Orner; ND-F--Shelby Nolan (L, 0-1) and Deyniera Artis. Highlights: O--Guillete lost no-hitter with one out in the seventh. Kaley Kempf hit 2-run home run. ND-F--Becky Stefanatos had a single.