FAIRFIELD -- Batting .500 in softball is considered an absolute success. A coach going .500 on in-game decision-making would be, well, something less. Stamford High coach Tony Esposito, however, was thrilled with his 2-for-4 day in Tuesday's 6-5 FCIAC quarterfinal victory over Fairfield Ludlowe.
Two moves didn't work out so well. But two did, especially sending Maria Zecena in as a pinch-hitter in the top of the fifth. Zecena's run-scoring triple keyed Stamford's four-run rally that wiped out Ludlowe's 4-1 lead.
"Maria was waiting for her chance and I'm so proud of her for being ready," said Esposito, who usually bats closer to 1.000 with his play-calling.
The fifth-seeded Knights (15-6) earned a semifinal berth against No. 1 St. Joseph Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at Sacred Heart University. Darien and Westhill battle in the other semifinal at 3. The final is Thursday at 4 p.m. at SHU.
"Coming off the bench to pinch hit is not that hard," Zecena said. "You watch and see what pitches (Ludlowe's Brigette Anderson) throws in certain situations. I was a little nervous but I adapted."
"I can sleep at night knowing I walked a great hitter, and if the next girl beats you, oh well ..." Esposito said.
Stamford pitcher Christina Joaunou was able to shake it off.
"It was OK," she said of the decision. "If I had walked or allowed a hit to (Martini) it would be a weight off my shoulders to face the next girl."
"I think (Gillian) wanted (Stamford's Christina Joaunou) to pitch to her," Ludlowe coach Shari Paci added. "Gillian really stepped it up."
After Ludlowe (15-6) made it 4-1 in the fourth on Brittany Romero's RBI single, the Knights rallied.
"I don't know if it was great hit," Zecena said, "but it sparked the fire for the rest of us."
"Maria's triple was amazing," said LaMotta (three hits, two RBI). "After her hit, we decided it was do or die time."
In the sixth, Esposito's call to have Brianna Arias lay down a squeeze bunt with the bases loaded worked perfectly and it was 6-4. Trying it again with the next batter did not and it resulted in a double play.
After Alice Nelson's RBI single in the seventh brought Ludlowe within 6-5, Nelson was on second with two outs when Katie DeCarlo hit a liner to right. Right fielder Kelly DiPietro made a shoestring catch to preserve the lead.
"I want it hit to me, I never really went `Uh oh,' " said DiPietro who could've been referring to her catch or her team's 4-1 deficit.
Stamford 6, Ludlowe 5
STAMFORD 100 041 0--6 9 4
LUDLOWE 003 100 1--5 6 2
Records: Stamford 15-6, Fairfield Ludlowe 15-6. Batteries: S--Christina Joaunou (W) and Colleen Adams; FL--Brigette Anderson (L) and Katie DeCarlo. Highlights: S--Haley LaMotta had three hits and two RBI, Maria Zecena had an RBI triple, Joaunou allowed three earned runs on six hits, struck out three and walked two. FL--Alice Nelson and Colleen Lambert each had two hits, Gillian Kennedy had a three-run home run, Anderson allowed five earned runs on nine hits, struck out one and walked none.