EAST HAVEN >> It’s become common to see East Haven make a lengthy run in the state tournament.
But the ultimate prize is still yet to be won.
The tenth-seeded Easties are appearing in a state final for the second consecutive year and can capture their first championship since 1984 when they face unbeaten Fitch, the No. 1 seed, in the Class L title game Friday night at 7 at Biondi Field in West Haven.
The program has advanced to at least the quarterfinals the past four seasons.
“It’s time to get over the hump,” East Haven coach Ed Crisafi said. “We are confident. It’s a confident group. We don’t have to pump them up. Practices are the same every day, it’s just free and easy. We know we have a shot, let’s put it that way.”
Said East Haven senior second baseman Giovanna Russo: “We’ve been working toward this since freshman year. We just keep getting closer every year to a title. Hopefully this year is our year to win it.”
The Easties (18-7) have just three seniors: Russo, third baseman Jena Villecco and designated player Casey Smith. But East Haven has a large and talented junior class, led by shortstop Allie Luzzi and pitchers Laura Anderson and Kara Hanson.
“This group, when they came in as freshmen, that was the end of the Amanda Jessey, Brianna Spadacenta group (players that led East Haven to the Class M semifinals in 2013),” Crisafi said. “That was the group that I thought would really start this run off, and they did. But these freshmen (the current juniors) are much better than I thought, especially Laura and Kara. Obviously we knew how good Allie could be, but Laura and Kara have really done much better than I think we even thought.”
Junior right fielder Ali Esposito has performed well in the No. 9 spot while catcher Jess Stettinger and first baseman Julia SanGiovanni have both been revelations as freshmen.
After graduating pitcher Talia Loda, a Register All-State selection last season, Crisafi had a huge void to fill in the circle. But the hard-throwing Hanson and the crafty Anderson have responded, while freshman Selena Mauro has also seen action.
While Crisafi knew his club would be competitive this season, the team has exceeded even his expectations.
“Losing Tal, who knew?” Crisafi said. “But Laura, Kara, they worked on it in the offseason. My little freshman (Mauro) got six starts, and they’re all back. I thought next year would be the peak of how good we were going to be. We’re a year ahead of schedule.”
The Easties face a Fitch team led by junior pitcher Caroline Taber, the Gatorade State Player of the Year. The Falcons knocked off three SCC schools (Law, Sheehan, North Haven) en route to the title game. East Haven defeated North Haven twice and earned one win in three tries over Sheehan this season.
“We’re definitely ready,” Villecco said. “We had a couple of days to prepare in practice and I think we’re pretty ready. (Playing in the SCC) gives us kind of what we’re going to see in the state tournament. It gets us really prepared for those pressure games.”
Success has definitely bred success at East Haven, but the mission is not yet complete.
“It’s been a great ride we’re having,” Luzzi said. “It would be the cherry on top, to win it.”