WEST HAVEN >> The plan was forming in Briana Marcelino as she developed a reputation as one of the rising softball stars in the town of Madison not too many years ago.
Marcelino was part of a talented group of prodigies eager to be the class to lead the Hand High program to its first state title since 2001.
Marcelino got her championship on Saturday in the heart of Southern Connecticut Conference country, but it was not with the girls she grew up playing with in Madison, it was as one of the four seniors on a Barlow team which won the CIAC Class L title with a 4-2 win over Torrington at Biondi Field.
“We never would have believed this would happen, my freshman year there were so many doubts going into every game,” said Marcelino, who scored one run and drove in another as Barlow won its first softball state title. “We’ve been playing for each other for a long time and it is just so great to end like this.”
If there was a signature moment for Marcelino in the state final, it came in the top of the first inning.
Marcelino drew a walk after an epic 11-pitch at bat against Torrington pitcher Ali DuBois.
Taylor Macchia swung and miss at DuBois’ next offering. When Macchia dumped the next pitch into right field, Marcelino was already heading towards second base and never stopped running as she scored from first on a single.
“I had the steal sign on that play and I knew as soon as she hit it, I was taking off,” Marcelino said. “Showing how aggressive you are in the beginning really sets the tone for the whole game. Showing them who we are and what we can actually do here.”
Marcelino would drive in the Falcons’ third run with a third-inning single. With Barlow leading by two runs, the slick-fielding shortstop made an athletic grab of a low throw from second baseman Sabrina Lalor to bring the Falcons one out away from a state title. DuBois, who had a home run and double in her previous two at bats, came up representing the winning run before winning pitcher Kaitlin Colangelo retired DuBois on a comebacker.
The moment was shared by people involved Marcelino’s past, present and future. There were some who recall her days in Madison, of course plenty of fans from her hometown of Easton and even one of the coaches at UConn where Marcelino signed a National Letter of Intent with in November.
Marcelino still has vivid memories of her days playing softball in Madison and even the uncertainty she felt when her father’s new job in Long Island resulted in the Marcelino moving from Madison to Easton.
“I had a bunch of softball friends (going to) Hand, we were really excited to go play at Hand, but I got the news I was moving here so I joined the middle school team and that is when I got to know the players,” Marcelino said.
Although Marcelino hit .492 as a freshman, she admits she wasn’t completely comfortable playing alongside her Barlow teammates until the following season.
“I was still a little shy during my freshman year, but I think sophomore year was the year for our softball team. We were a big family then.”
While Marcelino will have new teammates when she arrives at UConn, there will be one familiar face. Hand High star Hollis Wivell, who grew up playing with Marcelino in Little League and middle school, is also part of the six-member class of signees.
“It is so exciting, we played together since Little League so it is going to be great for four years,” Marcelino said.
Second time the charm
If there was a member of the Class LL championship Trumbull team who knew the emotions the Southington players were going through after a one-run loss in the state final, senior shortstop Taylor Brown would be the obvious choice.
Brown was a starting guard on a Trumbull team which only trailed by a point after three quarters in the 2017 Class LL girls basketball title game before falling 42-36 to New London.
“The loss in basketball it definitely hurt a lot but it gave me a learning experience that you have to leave it all on the court or on the field,” Brown said.
“I told them that it stinks to lose and anything can happen. In basketball nobody believed we would make it there and nobody thought we would make it here.”
Brown, who had a double and home run in the LL softball team and a team-high nine rebounds in the basketball state final, had to pick not only a college to attend but also a sport to focus at the next level.
She is planning to play basketball at Division III Montclair State.
Brown drew interest in both sports and is considering doing both sports at Montclair.
With the chance to end their seasons and perhaps their high school careers with a state title brings different emotions out of each player. Many of them use the time when the national anthem is being played to collect their thoughts.
Seymour senior second baseman Shari Minalga was a little busy performing the Star-Spangled Banner before the Class M final. Once leaving the press box to a round of applause, Minalga’s attention turned to leading the Wildcats to their third Class M title in the last four seasons.
“I sing a lot at the regular home games,” Minalga said. “I was a little nervous but you just have to feel confident in all that you can do so coming in here was nothing different, just a different crowd, just more people to impress I guess.”