WATERBURY — Who needs strikeouts? Naugatuck softball pitcher Jenna Miller doesn’t.
Miller allowed two earned runs and scattered eight hits as the No. 5 Greyhounds knocked off No. 4 Holy Cross 6-3 in a Naugatuck Valley League tournament quarterfinal Tuesday afternoon.
Naugatuck (15-6) advanced to play top-seeded Torrington in the NVL semifinals scheduled for Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Wolcott.
“My hat’s off to Jenna Miller,” Crusaders coach Jose DosSantos said. “Jenna Miller is a handful. She’s very smart and kept us off balance.”
Miller blanked Holy Cross (15-6) in all but one inning. Her only hiccups came in the third, when she allowed all three runs. Britany Steinfeld’s RBI single and Casey DiZinno’s two-run double were all the damage Miller surrendered.
The rest of the afternoon, the Crusaders struggled to square up any of the right-hander’s offerings. Miller retired the side in order in the first, fourth and sixth innings and wiggled out of jams in the second and fifth innings by inducing weak fly balls.
“I have a lot of movement on my pitches,” said Miller, who walked only one. “That works out very well because people don’t get a very good shot on them.”
Miller often recorded outs after just one pitch, so she didn’t get many chances to strike out any Crusaders.
“She doesn’t have to have a strikeout,” Naugatuck coach Kevin Wesche said. “She’s not overpowering, but she gets the placement and the rotation. She and our catcher (Shannon Searles) do a nice job and they induce some good things for our defense.”
Naugatuck’s offense threatened to score in every inning except the fifth, although the ‘Hounds left 12 runners on base.
After stranding five through the first two innings, Naugy broke through in the third to take a 2-0 lead. Lauren Burns’ two-run single to left-center plated a pair of runs after Sandra Dinis and Miller reached with consecutive one-out singles off Holy Cross starter Sarah Lawton.
Cross’ three-run third made it a 3-2 lead for the Crusaders, but Miller and the Greyhounds took back the edge for good in the fourth. Miller’s weak liner just over DiZinno at first allowed Kara Klimaszewski and Erica Andreoli to score for a 4-3 advantage.
“You just have to swing at the first strike you see,” Miller said. “You have to find your pitch and hit it, basically.”
Naugy added a pair of insurance runs in the sixth on Gillian Fortier’s RBI triple and Dinis’ RBI single. Fortier and Dinis joined Miller, Burns and Erica Bohuski with multiple hits for the Greyhounds, who tallied 14.
“Getting through the batting order a couple of times, we started to see what she was throwing and we started timing it,” Wesche said. “Opportunity knocked, and we opened up the door for ourselves.”
After facing Torrington in the NVL semifinals, the Greyhounds will either prepare for the league championship scheduled for Thursday at Wolcott or the Class L state tournament, where Naugy will host a first-round game Monday.
Woodland survives St. Paul: In another NVL softball quarterfinal Tuesday, No. 3 Woodland defeated No. 6 St. Paul 2-1 in walk-off fashion.
The Hawks scored both of their runs in the bottom of the seventh. Brianna Pacileo recorded the game-winning RBI when she plated Cameron Caswell in the bottom of the seventh inning, just after Steph Kiley wore a pitch with the bases loaded to score Sam White. White tripled to lead off the frame.
Samantha Lee spun a four-hitter with five strikeouts. White, who also singled, had Woodland’s only hits off Falcons starter Alessandra Milardo.
Woodland (17-4) is set to face No. 2 Seymour in the NVL semifinals scheduled for Wednesday at 4 p.m. in Wolcott. An upset by the Hawks would send them to league finals before they host a Class M state tournament first-round game Monday.