OLD LYME >> North Branford senior Sabrina LeMere set a school-record with her 14th career home run, sophomore Olivia Hemstock went 4-for-4 with a three-run homer and winning pitcher Lindsay Golia had two hits and four RBIs to power the T-birds past Coginchaug, 16-8, in the Shoreline Conference championship game Saturday afternoon at Old Lyme High School.
North Branford, which also captured the league crown a year ago, capped a memorable three-day hitting performance with 16 hits against the Blue Devils. The top-seeded T-birds scored 30 runs in tourney wins over East Hampton and Haddam-Killingworth.
“The bats came alive,” North Branford coach Nick DeLizio said. “Our hitting has been our strong point this year. It goes back to the approach we’ve been talking about the last month or so and it looks like it’s really sinking in.”
After senior pitcher Gabby Diaz gave the Blue Devils a 1-0 lead with an RBI double in the top of the first, LeMere sparked a four-run first by crushing a two-out solo homer. LeMere (3-for-5) also lined an RBI double in the second to give the T-birds a 6-1 lead.
“We came off of a great win yesterday against H-K and it really got us going,” said LeMere, who was selected the SLC Player of the Year for the second straight season. “It was a great feeling to get that home run and get that first run in.”
North Branford (22-1), which is ranked No. 6 in the Register/GameTimeCT poll, flexed its muscles with a 9-run fourth inning. Hemstock capped the explosion with a three-run homer over the left-field fence and the T-birds had an insurmountable 15-1 advantage.
“We were deer in the headlights those first few innings,” Coginchaug coach Tony Calcagni said. “I thought we were ready. We grew up a little bit, especially down the stretch where we had four or five tough games. I think just the scope of the day got to everyone.”
The second-seeded Blue Devils (17-6), who edged Morgan, 1-0, in the semifinals, avoided a mercy-rule loss by scoring four runs in the fifth behind a pair of errors, a dropped third strike and RBI hits from Melissa Grenier and Emily Smith.
“I’m disappointed in that we could have played better early on but then the kids turned it around,” Calcagni added. “I couldn’t be prouder of the kids and their effort.”
T-birds senior Meghan Golia had two hits, including an RBI double, and also made a sensational catch in center field to rob Blue Devils sophomore Maddy Montz (3-for-5) of a lead-off hit in the seventh.
Emily Muzyka had two hits and Julia Haeckel added an RBI single for North Branford, which is seeded No. 4 in the Class M tournament.
“The best feeling as a coach is watching your team celebrate,” DeLizio said. “That’s the best feeling because they put in the hard work and it’s unbelievable to watch them do that. It shows the resiliency and the dedication they’ve been putting in throughout the season.”