AGAWAM, Mass. -- In between pitches yesterday, Agawam ace pitcher Danielle Circosta routinely strolled away from pitchers circle and glanced out toward her younger sister Paige in centerfield. Upon making eye contact, the two would simultaneously take a deep breath together before the senior returned to the pitching rubber to deliver her next pitch.
To some, this act might have served as just another quirky ritual softball players like to do. But there was nothing quirky about it. It was later revealed that Circosta was battling a case of walking pneumonia and this unorthodox practice she was performing was giving her the durability needed in order to be effective.
Obviously well-below 100 percent, Circosta would need squeeze out every last ounce of energy she had in her having to face the region’s top team. As it turned out, the deep breathing routine worked out quite well as Circosta limited previously unbeaten Westfield to six hits and struck out nine en route to a 14-1 mercy-shortened Valley League victory. With the win, the Brownies earned a postseason tournament berth as they improved to 10-2.
“I’m on medication and it can really take its toll out there,” Circosta said. “But when I was out there I just needed to take deep breaths and forget about it. Looking back at my sister, and the two of us taking deep breaths together, really helped me a lot today.”
The Bombers (11-1) grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second inning when leadoff batter Kaitlyn Puza stroked a low fastball deep to center for a triple. On the play, Paige Circosta’s throw sailed over the cutoff allowing Puza to cross the plate.
But from that point forward Circosta was dialed in and kept Westfield’s offense at bay with a solid mixture of on-the-spot fastballs, a riser and an occasional change up. Agawam tied the game in its half of the third, taking advantage of a pair of Bomber errors. In the following frame, the Brownies opened up the flood gates.
Agawam sent 10 to the plate in the fourth, scoring five times in the process to put this one out of reach. Faith Rheault started things by ripping an 0-2 pitch to left for a single. Two sacrifice outs later, Danielle Circosta helped her own cause by slapping another 0-2 pitch into right for an RBI single to put the Brownies ahead to stay.
“You cannot go 0-2 in the count and give up hits like that,” Westfield coach Joe Stella said. “We did that four times today. I hope this is a learning thing for us. We saw some weaknesses today. We know what we need to work on and we’ll move on.”
Bomber sophomore pitcher Sarah McNerney (CG, 21 hits, 4 Ks) did a manageable job keeping her pitches around the plate, however Agawam was feeling it at the plate and sitting dead-red on McNerney’s fastballs. Danielle Stratton allowed the inning to continue by reaching on another error (4 total by Westfield) and Paige Circosta, a junior batting .500, brought in two more runs with a single to left. A Reilly Wieners single was next followed by Rebecca Fondakowski’s line drive to center to plate another run. Alexa Smith, running for Weiners, scored the final tally of the frame after Lauren Brodeur smacked a single to left to make it a 6-1 contest.
“Usually when we get down by a run we never seem to do to well but today we were just so fired up," Danielle Circosta said. “When we got up big I was able to relax and breath more. I didn’t have to worry about things except to just make the pitch and let my defense make the play."
The onslaught continued in the fifth as Agawam scored three more times on RBI by Stratton, Paige Circosta (3 hits, 3 RBI) and Wieners (3 hits, 4 RBI).
The Brownies were hardly finished. In the sixth, they added to the Bombers’ on-going misery. Rhealt and Jenna Fenton each drove in a run and Wieners, a junior who is batting .579 this season, sent three more runner across the plate thanks to a bases-clearing double which then forced umpires to call this contest in accordance with the 12-run mercy rule.
“I could tell when we came here today that something special was going to happen for us,” Brownies coach Kathy Georgina said. “I think now, that once we know how we can play, there’s no going back. I think these girls know what our potential is. Danielle’s pitches were working great and hitting her spot. Knowing her personality I knew she wanted to pitch today. It’s pretty awesome. I think our girls’ confidence after this game will be 10 times greater.”