The last thing on Abby Abramson’s mind as she slowly made her way out of DeLuca Field on an early June day was the memories she would be making this summer playing with the 35-time national champion Brakettes.
No, as the reality began to set in that her remarkable run as dominating pitcher and feared hitter at Cheshire High School came to an end with a loss to Southington in the semifinals of the CIAC Class LL tournament, the Register’s Area Softball Player of the Year could only think of countless good times.
It wasn’t even the pure elation of winning the 2016 Class LL title, advancing to the state final in 2015 or winning back to back Southern Connecticut Conference tournament crowns that were the first recollections popping into her head.
“What comes into my mind is how much of a family we are as a team because a lot of these girls I grew up playing softball with and we are just really close, win or lose we do it together and we have each other’s back,” Abramson said. “I feel like that is what has made this team so special for me and same with our coaches, it is so much support and respect between everybody.
“I was obviously disappointed that we lost but the worst part was knowing that I wouldn’t be able to play with these girls again, just knowing that it was my last game as a Ram was really sad.”
Abramson, who struck out 306 batters in 159 innings as a senior, was ripping through the Southington lineup to the tune of eight strikeouts and no base runners allowed in the first four innings. A couple of walks, a double steal, an error and five hits later, Southington shockingly led 6-0. Abramson got a couple of those runs back in the bottom of the fifth inning with a homer. The Rams threatened to get closer but instead it was Southington moving onto the Class LL final and Abramson’s time in a Cheshire High uniform had come to an end one game earlier than planned.
Southington coach Davina Hernandez, a state finalist twice during her time at Bristol Central High, didn’t need much prodding to give her thoughts on Abramson’s legacy after the game.
“She is the real deal,” Hernandez said. “You don’t see Abbys, you see them once in a lifetime. She is really something else.”
So what is it that makes Abramson the caliber of player that Hernandez, a former Division I softball player at UMass, believes will not come around again in her lifetime?
“Her presence on the mound, she not only moves the pitches around but she has the speed to do it,” Hernandez said. “Her location, if you watch her pitch against a team who chases pitches out of the zone, she will put it there. If you watch her face a team that doesn’t chase pitches out of the zone, she will put it on the plate and make you work for it.”
With Abramson leading the way, Cheshire won 35 games in a row over her junior and senior seasons. That streak ended thanks to fellow All-Area pitcher Amanda King working out of jams en route to leading Guilford to a 3-1 victory on May 8 – exactly one month before Southington would defeat Abramson and defending Class LL champion Cheshire.
Cheshire would finish with a 25-2 record and many of the victories were not of the routine variety. Coming off an undefeated season and the program’s first state title, Cheshire was the top-ranked team in every GameTimeCT/New Haven Register Top 10 poll until the final one. With Abramson returning, opposing teams knew anything but their absolute best would not be good enough.
“Abby did feel an added pressure this year. We did talk about it,” Cheshire coach Kristine Drust said. “I think we had to acknowledge that it was there. Anybody who was a fan of our team or watched our team, it never showed when Abby was on the mound, Abby always took the mound with class and as a leader. It definitely helped us accomplish what we did this year.”
It wasn’t just Abramson’s ability as a pitcher that caught people’s attention. After hitting a program single-season record 11 homers as a junior, Abramson was walked early and often during her senior season. The final count was 39 walks issues to Abramson and many of those were of the intentional variety.
“In the beginning it was a little bit frustrating but it really is that I am helping my team by being on base,” Abramson said. “We have such great hitters 1-9 in the batting order that I was thankful to be on base because I knew that whoever was coming up behind me was going to be able to do the job.”
That unselfish attitude is one of the things that Drust loves the most about Abramson.
“Everything she does whether it is just being the person that she is, the student, the athlete she just strives for excellence,” Drust said. “She clearly has achieved that but she also does it selflessly and so humbly so it really does just set her aside. There are a lot of players who have some of those characteristics but not all of them. For her to be able to accomplish what she has and in all aspects of her life at all levels and so it unselfishly and modestly, it is very uncommon.”
The success came on the athletic field as she was a captain of both the softball and soccer teams. It came in the classroom as her 4.6 grade-point average will attest and was also displayed with her work away from the field.
Drust had saved a list of the organizations that Abramson was involved with since she knew her star pitcher was going to pulling in her share of awards. The tabulating of Abramson’s charitable endeavors was no easy task. With 20 different entries, let’s just say that Abramson would have quite the struggle to get all of her off the field work into a one-page resume.
Whether it is sponsoring a family in need at Christmas time, her work with the Best Buddies program or being the founder of a Unified theater group, Abramson was as prolific in her charity work as she was dominant when she stepped inside the pitcher’s circle.
“I’ve always tried to be involved in the community ever since I was younger,” Abramson said. “My parents always wanted me to be really involved but really once I got to high school was when I started to join clubs and organizations. One of the first ones I joined was Best Buddies. It’s a big part of my life because providing opportunities and positive change within school, community and the whole town, it really was a great use of the time that I have.
“Cheshire helps provides a lot of opportunities for students with disabilities but there was also aspects of different activities, different things in school where there weren’t those opportunities. I feel like anything I could do to help provide those opportunities, I really wanted to because there are so many students I know love doing theater and have the ability but they weren’t given the opportunity so I wanted to help them out. Just seeing everybody come together and the smiles on their faces after we would have our meetings, rehearsals and final performance and it really just brought smiles to everybody’s faces.”
With her work on the field, in the classroom and in the community, it’s no wonder that the Ivy League schools recruiting Abramson in a major way.
Penn was among the first schools she visited and the one she will be spending the next four years at beginning in late August.
“It was one of the first schools that I visited and from the first time I walked onto that campus I felt like there was something special about it,” Abramson said. “I really liked how it was right in Philadelphia because my father is from that area so he was able to show me around and it really just felt like the best place for me. I met the coaches down there. I could tell that these were some coaches I could see myself playing for and I really wanted to play for because they seemed to have so much passion for the game and so much love for it which I do too so I felt like it was a really good fit.”
Before leaving for Philadelphia, Abramson will be working on her craft under the tutelage of Brakettes manager John Stratton, who worked alongside of the legendary Joan Joyce for several years at Florida Atlantic University. He has also helped ASA Hall of Fame pitchers Barb Reinalda, Kathy Arendsen, Lisa Fernandez and Lori Harrigan become among the most successful hurlers in softball history.
“The first time I met him was about a year and a half ago and right from the start, he can pick out the tiniest things you are doing wrong that make a huge difference,” Abramson said. “He is just so knowledgeable about the game of softball and pitching specifically. I’ve been working with him and I will continue working with him with the Brakettes. He really is helping to prepare me for playing at the college level working on the movement of my pitches, the speed of my pitches. Once I get to college I am going to be playing against some really tremendous athletes so he is trying to prepare me for that. Surrounding myself with these great players and these great coaches like Coach Stratton and Coach Drust too, I think that I can learn so much from them just from watching them play, watching them coach and really taking in everything they have to say is just going to make me such a better player and prepare me for the next level.”
The ultimate irony for Abramson wasn’t so much as she made her debut with the Brakettes on the same field where her high school career came to an end, but she actually faced off after fellow Cheshire High seniors Hannah Salvietti and Sam Simione. Abramson combined with former St. Joseph High star Nicole Williams as the Brakettes defeated a team of Connecticut high school all-stars 7-0 on June 15.
“It was very strange because I have played with them for so many years and I have ever really played against them but it was very fun,” Abramson said. “Unfortunately for them, I know a lot of the pitches that they can’t hit.”
Abramson couldn’t help but laugh as she uttered those last few words. The laughs come easy when she reflects back on those last four years with the Cheshire High softball team and not even one tough inning in her final high school game will change that.