STRATFORD – It rained. It thundered and there were even a few strokes of lightning but yet they played on.
Southington softball defeated Hall, 8-2, Thursday night in a rainy and muddy CIAC Class LL State Tournament semifinal at Deluca Hall of Fame Field to advance to the team’s third Class LL final in the past five years.
No. 1 seeded Southington (25-1) will play the winner of No. 2 Ludlowe (18-1) vs. No. 14 Trumbull (14-5), which was postponed from its original start time on Tuesday evening to Wednesday due to the inclement weather. The Class LL final will be played either Friday or Saturday at a site yet to be determined.
“It’s so sweet,” said Southington coach Davina Hernandez. “Weeks before the season, a lot of us coaches were talking with each other thinking we still wouldn’t have one [a season], so to have a full season without any interruption, we played our full 20 games, we were able to pick up our extra four …. We’re just really excited to be back here.”
Despite the rain starting in the first couple of innings, making the field slick and muddy, Hall, the No. 5 seed in the tournament, could not string together any defensive answers to stop or even stall the Blue Knights.
“We came really far this year, everyone’s happy with how far we came. Obviously we would have loved to go further but I think overall we’re pretty happy,” said Hall pitcher Sophie Garner-MacKinnon. “Southington’s great hitters. They’re disciplined. They know what they want and what they don’t. I know every time that I play them it’s going to be a challenge.”
Southington opened the scoring in the bottom of the first inning after center fielder Ashlyn Desaulniers walked to first and then stole second and third before running home on a passed ball from Hall. Without an answer from Hall offensively, the Blue Knights continued, scoring off an RBI triple from Julia Panarella and an RBI single from Alison Rembish to lead 3-0 after the second inning.
Hall (18-5) dropped a ball in the third inning, allowing Southington’s Lauren Verrilli to reach first base and steal second to be in position to score, thanks to an RBI single from Jazmin Lasane two batters later. Due to another defensive error on Hall, Samantha Sullivan scored to give the Blue Knights a 5-0 lead after the third.
The Blue Knights added runs in the fourth (two from wild pitches) and one in the fifth (from a fielder’s choice) to lead 8-0 heading into the top of the sixth.
Hall’s Jaqueline Hamad broke up the no-hitter in the top of the fifth, but the Warriors didn’t score their first run until the top of the sixth, when Tessa Hache scored on a Southington error. Hall’s second run came in the top of seventh from a Southington fielder’s choice.
But Hall’s final surge wasn’t enough as Southington’s Panaerlla struck out their final batter ending their season in the top of the seventh.
Southington will make its 24th appearance in the Class LL finals — a state record — and will be looking for its 19th state title after last winning the championship in 2019. Overall, the Blue Knights hold an 18-5 record in the finals.
“It was crazy. The second I walked in here I felt like I was just here. It was this exact day last (time) we won the championship and I think that was our good vibes today to win,” said Panarella. “We had luck here and we all knew we’d win this game, and we had a lot of hope in us this season because no matter how good we are I still think we have potential. I think we can get better.
“I am so excited with the year off, like I wish we had it, but the fact that we came back with that break and we’re still good and we came back for a back-to-back championship, I’m excited.”
The Blue Knights were led by Panarella with 11 strikeouts. She allowed four walks and two hits. Garner-MacKinnon led Hall with 13 strikeouts, allowing six walks and five hits on top of Hall’s three defensive errors.