DARIEN -- Defending their Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference softball championship obviously meant everything to the Darien Blue Wave. The fact that they took a while to get going in Wednesday's second-round Class LL state tournament game, one day after a nondescript opening-round win over the 30th-seeded team, seemed to prove that.
"It's been hard to generate that kind of excitement this week after Saturday's win (over rival Westhill in the FCIAC final)," Darien coach Nick DeMaio said after Darien's 4-1 victory over Shelton Wednesday. "I think the girls are still stuck in the aftermath of Saturday's win. They were so pumped up after winning (the FCIAC title)."
Courtney Bell's two doubles helped the No. 3 Blue Wave (21-3) earn a quarterfinal berth at home against No. 6 Amity on Friday. Bell's first two-bagger keyed a three-run rally in the bottom of the fourth that overcame Shelton's early 1-0 lead, and her second double drove home an insurance run in the fifth.
"Our pitcher (Kaysee Talcik) is only a freshman and I think that (fourth-inning) double (by Bell) had an effect on her," Shelton coach Joann Desrochers said.
The 14th-seeded Gaels (14-9) were without their No. 1 pitcher Emily Komornik, who was hit in the foot by a line drive Tuesday in Shelton's opening-round victory over Hamden. Komornik played first base Wednesday.
"Kaysee doesn't really get rattled but that was a big hit," Desrochers said.
Big hits are nothing new to Bell, who earned MVP honors in the FCIAC final. Trailing 1-0 after Shelton's Rachel Cataudella's RBI single in the top of the first, the Blue Wave finally shook off the FCIAC aftereffects in the bottom of the fourth.
"Courtney's double changed the whole game," Nick DeMaio said. "It really changed the momentum. It was just like her hit against Westhill on Saturday. Courtney was the MVP in Saturday's FCIAC final and she was the MVP today."
"Obviously, we were feeling the pressure, losing 1-0," Bell added. "But we knew what we were capable of, and once we got on the board, we all loosened up. Once we got the lead, we were pretty confident with Jess (DeMaio) on the mound."
Bell added an RBI double in the fifth to make it 4-1. Jess DeMaio allowed just four hits and three baserunners after the first two batters of the game reached base. She struck out six and walked none.
Cataudella led Shelton with two hits and Kendall Hanson had a double.
Class LL softball tournament second round
SHELTON 100 000 0--1 4 0
DARIEN 000 310 X--4 7 2
Records: Shelton 14-9, Darien 22-3.
Batteries: S--Kaycee Talcik (L, 4-6) and Jennifer Sicinski; D--Jess DeMaio (W, 19-3) and Olivia Gozdz.
Doubles: S--Kendall Hanson; D--Courtney Bell 2. Triples: none. Home Runs: none.