WEST HAVEN — Kiley Mullins knew the task ahead of her in the Class M semifinal round would be the greatest challenge yet of her young career.
The freshman has been dominant for fifth-seeded North Branford since her first start back on April 13,, and with undefeated No. 1 seed Woodland as the latest hurdle, she flourished yet again.
Mullins pitched a complete game, holding Woodland to two runs on eight hits while striking out four in the 7-2 win on Monday.
“We ride the hot hand, she had been pitching well and she has great movement on her pitches,” DeLizio said. “The girls believe in her and that is the big thing coming in as a freshman. It can be intimidating but they all believe in her.”
Mullins overcame any apprehension.
“It was definitely scary coming in and we knew we were underdogs,” Mullins said. “I don’t think that anybody was really expecting us to win, but we all banded together and it is a great feeling to beat an undefeated team.”
By the time Mullins stepped on the rubber, the North Branford offense had already supplied her a three-run lead following a two-out rally in which Lindsey Onofrio hit a two-run single and Lauren Ackerman delivered a RBI knock.
That first inning North Branford lead was just the second time this season in which Woodland trailed by three or more.
“We said from the beginning that the pressure was going to be on Woodland,” DeLizio said. “I have been in that situation a few years back being undefeated, and there is a lot of pressure. They are an excellent team, those girls can hit but we jumped on the bats early and our defense made the plays.”
Woodland began to climb back as Riley Kane drove in a run on a single in the bottom half of the first and Cassidy Doiron hit a solo shot to begin the second inning.
North Branford broke out in the third behind a squeeze bunt by Onofrio and a bases-clearing triple by Bella Hills, who then scored on a fielder’s choice for the 7-2 lead.
⬆️1: North Branford gets 3 on the board with a bases loaded 2-run single by Lindsey Onofrio, then another bases loaded single by Lauren Ackerman #ctsb
North Branford 3, Woodland 0 pic.twitter.com/mqRXlDgz4G
— Will Aldam (@AldamWill) June 7, 2021
“I knew Kiley had it, she has been pitching great and I just thought I needed to get a big hit to help her out,” Hills said. “She has really stepped up and she listens really well and settles right in. Everybody has total confidence in her.”
Hills has been splitting games on the mound with Mullins and has been a mentor for the impressive newcomer.
“We say if you are not doing it one way, you have to do it the other way and Bella (Hills) came through with a big hit,” DeLizio said. “That was awesome, and she has been great for us all postseason. I am so happy for her and proud of the way she has been playing.”
With a five-run lead, Mullins allowed four hits over the final four innings to send North Branford into the Class M final.
⬆️3: Lindsey Onofrio squeezes in Jada Miconi followed by a Bella Hills bases clearing triple. Sosnovich comes in to relief for Woodland #ctsb
North Branford 6, Woodland 2 pic.twitter.com/PqhtZOIWGk
— Will Aldam (@AldamWill) June 7, 2021
“Kiley Mullins on the mound as a freshman pitching in a state semifinal game, I am so proud of her,” DeLizio said. “She got rattled a little bit but that’s okay, Bella Hills being a leader came up to her and settled her down. Everyone is playing for each other.”
North Branford will make its second ever Class M final appearance and first since 2017 when it fell to Seymour 4-3.
“This has been the most unselfish team I have ever been a part of,” DeLizio said. “They are there for each other, they love each other and it is so much fun to be around these girls. Hopefully we can continue this later in the week.”
North Branford will face another NVL team in Seymour — a 4-3 winner over Granby Memorial in the other semifinal — and will look to capture its first state title in program history after already claiming the Shoreline title over a week ago.
“At the beginning of the year you don’t know what the expectations are but you always dream of going to the final,” DeLizio said. “We got there and the girls are pumped, the school is pumped and this is great for the community. We are going to put our best foot forward and be the best version of ourselves.”
With its first loss, Woodland’s incredible run comes to an end, but the Hawks are still NVL champions.
“It was an amazing season, they did a very good job and I am so proud of them,” Woodland coach Loren Luddy said. “They fought until the end. I am so glad May Dawes had a great game today, she is an unbelievable captain and she came through all season. Emily Beyer too, losing those two captains is going to leave a huge hole.”
North Branford 7, Woodland 2
North Branford304 000 0 — 7 10 1
Woodland110 000 0 — 2 9 0
Batteries: NB—Kiley Mullins (W), and Hanna Senerchia. W— Riley Kane (L), Sam Sosnovich (3) and Kiley Bulinski. HRs: W— Cassidy Doiron
Please go to GametimeCT.com High School Sports to read full article.