Buckley, Masuk rise up against Westhill
Only a sophomore, Masuk's Tatum Buckley is rapidly developing a reputation as one of the top two-way players in the state.
In Thursday's early-season Class LL showdown against perennial power Westhill, Buckley showed why.
Buckley tossed a four-hitter and also crushed a three-run homer as Masuk held on to defeat Westhill 3-1 in a well-played matchup between two of the state's top-ranked teams.
The only offense the Panthers (2-0) would need came in the top of the second when Kayla Crisci, the team's No. 8 batter, started a two-out rally before Buckley turned on an inside pitch and launched it deep to left.
"It was up and in and (Buckley) really drove it," Vikings coach Tom Pia said. "It was one of the deepest shots I've seen hit on our field. She's a great player, and really gives them confidence as a team."
Buckley struck out eight, surrendering only a two-out solo homer to Westhill center fielder Tami Wise in the third inning.
Matched up against Vikings All-State pitcher Allison Macari, who allowed four hits while striking out two batters, Buckley was more than up to the task.
"We knew this was a big game but we came in pretty confident," said Buckley, who led the Panthers to a season-opening 16-2 mercy-rule victory over SWC rival Pomperaug on Wednesday and was 17-5 on the mound as a freshman. "I tried to keep them off-balance, and my fielders did a great job supporting me."
Buckley retired nine batters in a row at one point.
Macari's second single of the game gave the Vikings (0-1) some life in the sixth, but the sophomore beared down. She did the same in the seventh, yielding a one-out double to Megan D'Allesandro before setting down the next two batters to seal the win.
"Tatum did a great job and I thought our first baseman (Melissa Peet) had an outstanding game as well," Masuk coach Jacqui Sheftz said. "Westhill is a well-coached, but I think we had the advantage in that we played yesterday. Overall, it was a well-played softball game and we plan on seeing them again later (in the state tournament).
Despite their lofty No. 3 preseason state ranking, Pia was unsure of how his team would stack up against the elite in Connecticut.
But after watching his Vikings go toe-to-toe against defending Class L champ Foran in a scrimmage, and hold their own against a loaded Masuk squad, Pia is quickly becoming a believer that Westhill could make it back to a third straight Class LL title game.
There is, of course, work to be done.
"We had a bad habit of trying to pull outside pitches so we have to learn to sit back and drive it," Pia said. "Allison pitched really well though and we fielded the ball great."