WEST HAVEN >> Allie Luzzi provided the spark, Giovanna Russo came through in the clutch yet again and Laura Anderson pitched arguably the game of her career.
That added up to a 4-2 victory for the East Haven softball team over previously unbeaten Fitch in the Class L state championship game before an estimated 800 fans Friday at Biondi Field.
It was the first state title since 1984 for the Easties, who were playing in their second consecutive state final. Longtime East Haven head coach Ed Crisafi won his first championship.
East Haven has reached at least the quarterfinals for the past four seasons. The Easties (19-7) lost to Seymour in the Class M title game last season before moving up to Class L this year.
“It feels great,” said Crisafi, now in his 22nd year. “It culminates everything that I tried to do with the program. The first 15 years, (we had) eight wins, nine wins, 10 wins. I tried to get the kids to take softball more seriously, play summer ball. Then all of a sudden, they just all bought in.”
No. 10 seed East Haven turned a game-ending, and championship-clinching, double play. With a runner at second, Luzzi, the shortstop, fielded a grounder, threw over to first baseman Julia SanGiovanni for the second out, and then SanGiovanni threw across the diamond to Jena Villecco to nab the runner out at third.
With Fitch (25-1) leading 2-1, Luzzi tied the game with a solo home run to lead off the third inning. Luzzi, who finished with two hits and made several outstanding plays at shortstop, was named the game’s MVP.
“I thought (the home run) just sparked what I thought we could be capable of,” Luzzi said. “I think it just opened up the door for us and we took it.”
Anderson followed Luzzi’s home run with a single. Then with two outs, Villecco singled before Russo’s two-run double gave the Easties the lead for good. Russo had the game-winning RBI in the semifinals last season.
“It (winning the state title) is honestly the best feeling in the world,” Russo said. “No words can even describe how I feel right now. We’ve been working towards it since my freshmen year, and I just really can’t describe it. It’s the best feeling.”
Sophomore catcher Taylor Wolfgang doubled to lead off the bottom of the first inning for the top-seeded Falcons. She later scored when East Haven freshman catcher Jess Stettinger threw the ball away on a return throw to Anderson. The Easties then had a runner caught in a rundown, but was unable to record the out. That runner, Jonell Hobert, later scored on a Jackie Lewis ground out, and Fitch led 2-0.
“Shaky, shaky first inning,” Crisafi said. “We had jitters. We had the girl dead in the rundown. We made two blobs. They had two runs on one hit.”
Kara Hanson led off the second inning with a single for East Haven. She later scored on senior Casey Smith’s infield single to cut the Fitch lead to 2-1.
East Haven collected 12 hits off Fitch junior pitcher Caroline Taber, the Gatorade State Player of the Year. Taber did not walk a batter and struck out eight. The Falcons defeated three other SCC schools (Law, Sheehan, North Haven) en route to the championship.
“You’re playing great teams in the state tournament,” Fitch coach Kate Prpich said. “Any team that is here on this field on this night deserves to be here. They’re a great team. These girls from East Haven, they hit the ball well tonight, and we didn’t. And that was the difference.”
Anderson allowed just two hits, did not allow a walk and hit one batter. She did not record a strikeout, but kept the Falcons off-balanced with her array of off-speed pitches. Anderson did not allow a hit in the second through fifth innings before Taber singled with two outs in the sixth.
“It feels great,” Anderson said. “We won the state championship and I had a two-hitter. Nothing could be better than that.”
EAST HAVEN 4, FITCH 2
(at West Haven)
East Haven 013 000 0 — 4 12 1
Fitch 200 000 0 — 2 2 1
Laura Anderson and Jess Stettinger; Caroline Taber and Taylor Wolfgang.
WP: Laura Anderson (7-4). LP: Caroline Taber (22-1). 2B: (EH) Giovanna Russo, Ali Esposito; (FCH) Taylor Wolfgang. Hr: Allison Luzzi (EH)RBI: Luzzi, Russo (2), Smith (EH); Jackie Lewis (FCH);
Team records: East Haven 19-7; Fitch 25-1.