STRATFORD >> The faces and perhaps even the names of the powerhouse high school softball programs may change over the years but if there is one constant it is that dominant, workhorse pitchers tend to be in the spotlight when the CIAC softball champions are being crowned.
There certainly are some hard-throwing aces who either stepped or will step inside the pitcher’s circle at Biondi Field on the final weekend of the 2017 softball season. Class M finalists North Branford and Seymour apparently never got the memo that relying on one go-to pitcher is standard operating procedure at this time of the year as both teams will have two pitchers ready to go in Saturday’s 4 p.m. championship game.
North Branford is not the first team to boast two 10-game winners but certainly it hasn’t happened on a regular basis in recent years.
Senior right-handed pitcher Julia Haeckel and junior lefty Sydney Senerchia have split the pitching duties. Before the Class M semifinals, each started 10 games and made 13 appearances.
The numbers are almost identical as Haeckel has struck out 122 batters and Senerchia has 121 strikeouts. Both pitchers have surrendered seven extra-base hits. Senerchia has given up 55 total hits, two more than Haeckel. Senerchia had a brilliant showing in the semifinal win taking a one-hitter into the seventh inning to lead the Thunderbirds into their first state final in 42 years.
“We go with the hot hand,” North Branford coach Nick DeLizio said. “The way everything has been going, Sydney pitched the last two and we probably are going to be riding her the whole way because she has been pitching awesome.”
Senerchia was the starter as North Branford defeated Haddam-Killingworth and Hale Ray to win the Shoreline Conference title and she has picked up three wins in the state tournament.
“It helps a lot because I know all the pressure isn’t on me because if I get into a tough spot she can come in and do just as good,” Senerchia said. “She is really good.”
Both pitchers were mainstays on North Branford’s perennial powerful youth softball programs but Senerchia said this current run is unlike any of her experiences as an 11 or 12 year old.
“In all-stars we went to regionals a few times and won a state championship through that but that is not important compared to this,” Senerchia said. “A lot of us have been playing together since we were young, that is why we are so close because we have been used to playing with each other.”
Seymour does it a little bit differently as Jenna Geffert had started 21 of the Wildcats’ 27 games with Molly Adamo coming on in relief in 10 of her 16 appearances including one where she allowed five hits and one run in five innings in the Class M semifinals against St. Joseph.
“We’ve been starting Geffert all year and she tends to tell us whether she should be replaced or not,” Seymour coach Ken Pereiras said. “Her body language usually tells us that she’s had it.
“That is what we’ve done. We’ve let her start and when she gets in tough situations and we have to make a change, we make a change. There have been times when she has been able to get into situations and get out of them and she has been fine after that. She sometimes goes through an inning or so where she struggles and we other let her fight through it or fight through it.”
Geffert is 18-0 with a 1.96 earned run average. She has a slightly higher strikeout per seven inning ratio over fellow sophomore Adamo although Adamo leads the team with an impressive ratio of 5.9 combined walks and hits allowed per seven innings.
“The mindset is just staying positive all the time,” Adamo said. “It doesn’t matter what the situation is.”
If there is a similarity between the North Branford and Seymour pitching staffs it is the close bond between the hurlers who share the pitching duties.
“In school, they are best friends,” Pereiras said. “There is no animosity among them, they are good teammates and they root for each other which is nice.”