STRATFORD >> Another state championship final. Another heart-stopping finish for Southington.
Senior Bella Russo scored on an error with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning and the top-seeded Lady Knights walked off with a 5-4 victory over Cheshire in the Class LL state softball championship game Saturday at DeLuca Field.
It was the third-straight title and 17th overall for Southington. The Lady Knights (24-0) have won 70 straight games.
No. 2 Cheshire (23-3) lost in a state final for the fifth time. The Rams were seeking their first title.
The Lady Knights won on a walk-off home run by Rachel Dube in a 1-0 victory in 15 innings over Amity in last season’s final. Southington defeated Mercy 1-0 in the final in 2013.
With the bases loaded in the seventh, Lauren Zazzaro’s fly ball was caught for the second out. Russo tagged up, then decided against trying to score, but the relay home was overthrown allowing Russo to score the winning run.
“It’s an amazing feeling, it really is,” Russo said. “So many girls are so talented on this team. So many. For me to be able to push and go 110 percent, and be behind all of them, it’s really amazing. It really is.”
The error on the final play was the fourth of the game for Cheshire. The Rams were playing in their first final since 1995. They also finished as the runner-up in 1978, 1980 and 1985.
“They say defense wins championships,” Cheshire coach Kristine Drust said. “That saying is right. The ball just didn’t bounce our way today. I thought we came out and we were attacking and we were fighting. But I knew a team like that wasn’t going to go quietly. The ball just didn’t bounce our way on a couple of plays. They started fighting back.”
The Lady Knights trailed 4-0 before an RBI single from Kait Paterson, a successful squeeze bunt by Emily Lippincott and a two-run double by Zazzaro tied the game in the fifth.
Paterson finished with three hits, a run and an RBI and was named the game’s MVP.
“It feels amazing,” Paterson said. “It’s indescribable and just to do it with this group of girls, it means the world. I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else.”
Cheshire scored three times in the second. Sam Simione (3-for-3) had an RBI single, another run scored on Maggie O’Reilly’s fielder’s choice, and Olivia Odermatt had a run-scoring sacrifice fly. Odermatt had an RBI single in the fourth to put her team up 4-0.
“I know that we’re the best team that they’ve played all year,” Drust said. “I knew it was going to be this type of game. Again, it was just going to come down to who’s going to keep the momentum on their side. They grabbed the momentum and they kept it.”
The Rams had six hits off Boston College commit Kendra Friedt, who struck out just two. But Friedt retired 10 of the last 12 batters she faced, including six in a row from the fourth inning into the sixth.
“I feel great,” Friedt said. “They’re a great all-around hitting, pitching, fielding team. To come out from down four to beat them in this game is just a great feeling for me and my team. We knew that we can do it, but they’re a great team and they gave us a good fight.”
SOUTHINGTON 5, CHESHIRE 4
Cheshire 030 100 0 — 4 6 4
Southington 000 040 1 — 5 6 0
MacKenzie Juodaitis and Megan Hodgdon; Kendra Friedt and Maighread Scafariello.
WP: Kendra Friedt (16-0). LP: Mackenzie Juodaitis. 2B: (STH) Lauren Zazzaro. RBI: Odermatt (2), Simione, OReilly (CH); Kait Paterson, Emily Lippincott, Lauren Zazzaro (2) (STH);
Team records: Cheshire 23-3; Southington 24-0.