Trailing 5-1 with one inning left to save the season against one of the top pitchers in the state, Amity coach Sara Hale gathered her team for potentially the final time. The Spartans’ sixth state championship never seemed so far away as Kara Zazzaro and Southington presented a massive roadblock in the Class LL semifinals.
The belief was still there, though.
It started with one hit — a double by Brooke Matyasovsky — and before the Spartans knew it they somehow had a 6-5 lead. An offense that put up big run totals this spring woke up in a big way with its backs against the wall, and with it carried momentum into the Class LL championship game.
“We knew we were down, but they believed in themselves,” Hale said. “I just said ‘let’s go and make a game out of this’; the captains spoke after I did. Brooke hit that double and that gave us momentum. It was very stressful; as much you believe and think they could do it is the last inning and the last chance.”
Four days later the Spartans claimed a first title for Hale — in her third season — and finished the season 24-4. Amity jumped out to a double-digit lead en route to a 13-7 win over FCIAC squad Trumbull to secure a first championship since 2012.
A slugfest in the final played right into Amity’s hands. The Spartans socked 17 hits in the win over the Eagles; the 20 runs produced by the Spartans and Trumbull tied the record for most in a state final.
“Our offense was unbelievable,” Hale said. “No. 1-to-9, we could hit the ball every game. (Leadoff hitter) Nicole Koshes set the tone for the whole game, whenever she gets on base we do well.”
It didn’t take long before coach Hale realized she had a special offense on her hands. An 8-1 start full of crooked numbers on the board lifted hopes of a championship. The run to the state title began after falling 12-8 to North Haven in the SCC final.
“I knew going into it with the returners we had; we brought back our big bats and our speed,” Hale said. “We thought we were going to be a team to reckoned with; I didn’t realize how special we were just as a team until halfway through the season. I stopped and reflected and realized we have something special.”
Amity blanked Hamden and Warde in comfortable wins to start the state playoffs. The Spartans then held off a hard-charging E.O. Smith in an 8-6 win after the Panthers scored three in the seventh. After stunning the Blue Knights in the semis, Amity led Trumbull 11-0 after five innings.
Pitcher Grace Whitman tossed six-plus shutout innings before Trumbull staged an incredible rally to plate seven runs in the final frame. Hale wanted the two-year starter to close out her final game as the Eagles threatened to pull to within striking distance. Freshman Kelly Pritchard closed out the win.
“My whole thing was I really wanted Grace to finish the game,” Hale said. “She pitched incredible for six and-two-thirds innings, I can’t give her enough credit. She’s been a rock for two seasons; I’ve been blown away by her perseverance.”
Seniors stepped up big late in the tournament for the Spartans. Koshes played a big part in the win over Southington, and Matyasovsky and Danielle Nordyk combined for nine hits in the final to earn co-MVP honors. The Spartans will graduate six seniors.
“They will certainly be missed,” Hale said. “Those were a great group of girls who believed and rooted for each other. Every game it was someone different and they all came together on Saturday and were consistent. I can’t even begin to think what it’s going to be like without them.”
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