5 STORY LINES TO WATCH
1. BUCKLE UP
Plot line: For the first time since 2012, there are no undefeated teams in either Class LL or L. It should make for wide open tournaments. Defending Class LL champion Cheshire went wire to wire as the No. 1 team in the Register Top 10 poll and enters the Class LL tournament as a favorite, although Norwich Free Academy is the No. 1 seed. The top-seeded team has won each of the last four LL titles. Reigning Class L champion Fitch isn’t as dominant as it was a season ago, but is still a team to be reckoned with. SWC tournament champion Masuk will also be a factor, while SWC power Pomperaug is the top seed. Three SCC teams are top eight seeds in Class L. With Griswold’s loss in the ECC tournament final, that leaves Wilcox Tech as the only undefeated team heading into the Class M tournament. Wilcox scored at least 10 runs in every game this season until Saturday’s 8-4 win over Norwich Tech in the CSC title game. The Indians figure to get tested early facing either Wolcott out of the NVL or St. Joseph out of the FCIAC in the second round.
2. GUNNING FOR HISTORY
Plot line: Holy Cross has a chance to go somewhere only a select six programs have gone before. If the Crusaders win the Class S title, they will join Seymour as the only NVL teams to win three consecutive state titles. The Wildcats won Class L championships in 2004 and 2005 and captured the Class M title in 2006. Southington is the most recent team to accomplish the three-peat winning the Class LL crown from 2013-15. The Blue Knights also won the LL title from 1981-83 and won an unprecedented four consecutive state championships from 1985-88. Other three-peat winners include Amity (Class LL champions from 2001-03), Coginchaug (Class S champs from 1997-99), Berlin (winner of Class M title from 1986-88) and Ledyard, which won the Class L title in 1993 before winning the Class LL crown in 1994 and 1995.
3. PLANTING THE SEEDS
Plot line: In the previous five tournaments just two double-digit seeds have walked away with state titles. No. 12 seed Waterford won the 2013 Class M championship and in 2015, 10th-seeded East Haven fought its way to the Class L crown. This year among the most dangerous teams could be the No. 11 seeds in the LL and L fields. Darien, seeded 11th in Class LL, rode the rock-solid pitching of Sophie Barbour to its first FCIAC tournament title since 2012. Winners of 18 of its last 20, Darien won’t have an easy road with potential matchups against top 10 ranked teams Southington, Middletown and Cheshire just to reach the final. Defending Class LL champion Fitch has won the last three ECC tournament crowns in addition to advancing to the last two Class L title games. Caroline Taber, who recently completed her freshman season at Princeton, did much of the heavy lifting in the pitcher’s circle in 2015 and 2016. Senior Jayden Delaporta’s clutch pitching and timely hitting has helped Fitch navigate an ambitious non-conference schedule. The senior-laden Falcons certainly seem poised for another deep postseason run.
4. WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES
Plot line: Familiar names seem to find their way to the championship games year after year, but there are a couple of teams who have made remarkable one-year improvements to keep an eye on. Bristol Eastern’s win total improved by nine games in the regular season, the largest jump in the state. North Haven is close behind having gone from 9-11 to 17-3 in one year’s time. It could be just the start of things for both programs. Bristol Eastern has been led by precocious freshman pitcher Erin Girard, while pitcher Lauren Card headlines a talented sophomore class for North Haven.
5. HAMDEN’S POSTSEASON BONANZA
Plot line: A year ago just one of the three CIAC programs from Hamden qualified for the state tournament as Sacred Heart Academy was seeded 25th in Class L. Sacred Heart will have some company as Hamden returns to postseason play after a one-year absence, while Whitney Tech will make the first state tournament appearance in program history. Sacred Heart Academy qualified for the Class L field with a 14-2 win over city rival Hamden on May 17. That came a day after Hamden clinched a postseason berth by beating Bassick. Whitney Tech played 17 regular-season games meaning that seven wins were required to earn a spot in the tournament. The inventors were sitting at 3-10 before ending the regular season with four wins in a row knowing that the next loss would end their postseason dreams. A 22-1 win over Public Safety secured the spot in the Class S tournament as the No. 29 seed.
5 PLAYERS TO WATCH
• Abby Abramson, Cheshire, P: The senior tossed a no-hitter with 13 strikeouts and reached base four times as the Rams topped Guilford 8-0 to win the SCC tournament for the second year in a row. The Penn commit has enjoyed a dominant senior season, and since suffering the only loss of the season to Guilford on May 8, the Rams have played eight games with Abramson striking out 15 batters in four of them.
• Beth Fleming, Norwich Free Academy, P: The senior became the Wildcats’ all-time leader in strikeouts this season and has one last chance to lead NFA to that elusive state title. The Wildcats saw their season end at the hands of Cheshire each of the last two seasons, falling in the quarterfinals in 2015 and semifinals last year. The teams are on opposite sides of the bracket this time around.
• Becca Johnson, Seymour, OF: Junior leads the Wildcats with a .627 batting average, 40 stolen bases (on 41 attempts) and 48 runs scored. She has already scored more than 100 runs and recorded more than 100 hits and has a .546 career batting average with a full season remaining and as many of five games to play in the Class M tournament.
• Gabby Laccona, Westhill, SS: Leadoff hitter is batting .587 with seven home runs and 16 stolen bases and has earned a reputation as one of the state’s best fielding shortstops. The Ithaca commit received valuable experience playing with the Stratford Brakettes over the summer and recently was named the winner of the Allyson Rioux Memorial Award presented annually to the top female athlete in the city of Stamford.
• Briana Marcelino, Barlow, SS: The UConn signee and former Madison resident has enjoyed a sensational senior season. She is hitting .662 with 10 doubles, 10 homers, 39 RBIs and 19 stolen bases and has only committed four errors. She has multiple hits in eight of the last nine games driving in 20 runs during that span and figures to be pitched to rather carefully in the postseason.