OLD LYME — When a trio of talented freshman joined the North Branford softball team in 2015, the Thunderbirds had won just two Shoreline championships.
Four years later that same trio, now seniors, walked off Old Lyme high school’s field as conference champions for the fourth time, giving North Branford six conference titles.
With the help of all three seniors — starting pitcher Sydney Senerchia, second baseman Olivia Hemstock and first baseman Danielle Ramada — the Thunderbirds completed the four-peat with a 2-1 win over Hale-Ray on Sunday.
The three seniors have never lost a league title.
“It’s unbelievable, especially for the senior class,” North Branford coach Nick DeLizio said. “They came in as freshman ready to battle, all three started, which is rare. They took what we laid out in 2015, from those seniors who built the foundation.”
Senerchia allowed just three hits and struck out eight, while Hemstock scored the eventual game-winning run and Ramada played flawless defense at first.
“We came in as freshman and the team wasn’t really known for their softball to begin with,” Senerchia said. “And I feel like the three of us came in and we tried to make the best impact we could and now her we are as seniors with our fourth Shoreline championship. I couldn’t be more proud of us.”
The quest for the four-peat had a rocky start.
Hale-Ray, which was shut out by North Branford earlier in the season, jumped on Senerchia early.
A one-out walk, followed by an RBI triple by Erin Molkenthin gave the Noises an early 1-0 lead.
“Offensively I was really proud of their performance,” Hale-Ray coach Sue Miner said. “Sydney is a fantastic pitcher and for us to hop on it early in the game, put some pressure on (them) and took some off of us.”
The Thunderbirds did feel the pressure, and how could they not. They hadn’t trailed all season up until the first inning of the title game.
“It was a good test mentally for us,” DeLizio said.
That was all Hale-Ray got as Senerchia settled down and mowed them down.
“With the ball in Sydney’s hand, you definitely feel confident. She brings it game in and game out,” DeLizio said. “You just feel confident, the team feels confident. She puts the team on her back.”
The senior admitted she didn’t have her best stuff, but her teammates stepped up and backed her up.
“They made the plays behind me,” Senerchia said. “We just focused on hitting our spots. We didn’t take a batter off.”
Offensively the Thunderbirds were knocking on the door but had a hard time putting runner across the plate against Hale-Ray starter Hannah Lemke.
With the help of her defense, the junior lefty pitched out of jams in three of the first four innings.
“It’s some of the best defense we played all season long,” Miner said.
In the fifth inning, the Thunderbirds finally broke through.
An RBI single by Kayla Despres tied the game. Then a an RBI double by freshman Jada Miconi gave the Thunderbirds a 2-1 lead.
That was more than enough for Senerchia.
“We got runners on base and although we didn’t string them together right away, once we started to I think we knew that we were going to end up winning,” she said. “I had faith in them the whole time. I knew even from the moment we went down. I knew we would be able to come back and win.”
North Branford 2, Hale Ray 1
At Old Lyme HS
Hale Ray 100 000 0 – 1 3 2
North Branford 000 020 – 2 7 0
Batteries: HR – Hannah Lemke and Erin Molkenthin. NB – Sydney Senerchia and Kayla Despres.
WP: Sydney Senerchia LP: Hannah Lemke
2B: NB – Jada Miconi. 3B: HR – Erin Molkenthin.
Records: North Branford 23-0 Hale Ray 18-5.