NEW MIDDLETOWN-Last year, after the Springfield softball team lost its sectional opener, utility player Michaela Cavalcanti remembered sitting on the field crying.
Tuesday, the sophomore wore an irrepressible smile.
Cavalcanti hit a tiebreaking two-out, two-run double in the bottom of the sixth inning to lift the sixth-seeded Tigers to a 4-2 win over 10th-seeded United in Division III sectional tournament action at Springfield High School.
"There is so much pressure in tournament games," Cavalcanti said. "It was so disappointing to lose in the tournament last year and to be able to come in today and get the winning hit is just incredible."
The Tigers (10-8) win their first tournament game since 2009 and travel to fourth-seeded Newton Falls at 5 p.m. today for a sectional final. The winner advances to next week's Division III Lisbon district tournament.
"We came into today with a lot of energy and got the job done," Springfield coach Taylor McMullen said. "United is a team that's gotten better as the year has gone on and we expected a hard effort from them."
It all came down to the bottom of the sixth.
With the score tied at two, cleanup hitter Charley Troggio was hit by a pitch with one out and courtesy runner Cori Wade stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch. With two outs, freshman Lindsey Druschel drew a very tough walk. Cavalcanti then went after the first pitch from United's Amanda Hall and smacked a sinking liner to left that eluded a diving Kassie Chestnut.
"I was looking for a pitch up in the zone and inside that I could drive to left," Cavalcanti said. "I got it right on the first pitch."
"That hit took a lot of guts," McMullen said. "Lindsey (Druschel) also had a phenomenal at-bat to set Michaela up."
Taylor Johnston had two singles for Springfield, while Troggio gave the Tigers took a 2-0 lead in the third with a two run double. However, Hall would not let the Tigers shake free. Hall struck out five and walked two, while the Eagles played error-free defense.
United got its two runs in the fifth with the help of a Springfield fielding error as well as infield singles by Chestnut and Haylee Hawk.
"I felt like we had some good at-bats, we just couldn't find the gaps with our hits," United coach Ryan Burd said.
United, which dropped to 4-20 on the season, lost to the Tigers in the regular season by scores of 12-2 and 5-4 in extra innings.
"These girls have nothing to hang their head about," Burd said. "Springfield is a good team and we played very hard tonight. I've been very happy with the effort all season."
The last tournament win for Springfield came when the Tigers beat Campbell 13-0 in a sectional game in 2009.
Springfield played Newton Falls just last Saturday in the Mahoning Valley Invitational and lost by 10 runs.
"We will need to play one of our best games to come out with a win," Springfield coach Taylor McMullen said. "Newton Falls is a very tough, well-coached team. They move runners over well and play very strong defense."
United has two Inter-Tri County League upper tier games left. The Eagles are at Crestview on Thursday and host Crestview Monday. Springfield has one ITCL upper tier game left with Mineral Ridge that hasn't been rescheduled.
"We see it as a positive that we still have games left," Burd said. "We are a young team and want to use every chance to get better."
United catcher Sydney Moats was removed from the game in the fifth inning after turning her ankle while hitting first base.
"We'll have it looked at tomorrow," Burd said.
SP-Josie Applegarth, wp, (7IP, 3K, 0BB) and Charley Troggio.
UN-Amanda Hall, lp, (6IP, 5K, 2BB) and Sydney Moats, Haylee Hawk.