The Cheshire softball team — ranked No. 7 in the latest GameTimeCT/Register Top 10 Poll — has won its share of games in blowout fashion, but the Rams have more than held their own in close games. A 6-1 record in games decided by two runs or less has Cheshire atop the SCC standings and primed for another deep run in the postseason.
Having a strong ace in the circle helps turn the tide in those high-pressure situations.
Senior Natalie Amato had to wait her turn behind a school legend in Abby Abramson before thriving this spring. Amato had limited varsity experience in the circle before starting almost every game for the 16-1 Rams.
“We had some returning kids with experience, but we had a big unanswered question with Abby leaving,” said Cheshire coach Kristine Drust, who has a 108-13 record in her five seasons with the team. “(Amato), who didn’t have much experience prior to this year really stepped up; she got stronger over the offseason and really stepped up to the plate.”
Drust conceded she was planning on using a committee to make up for Abramson’s departure, but the strong Amato made the position her own with one impressive performance after another. She also hasn’t blinked in close games. Amato — who will play at the University of St. Joseph — has mastered the mental part of the position from studying the ones that came before her, Drust added. The Rams have collected seven shutouts this spring.
Offensively the Rams are led by talented sophomore Ariana Perlini, the team’s second baseman and leading hitter. Shortstop Mia Juodiatis, left fielder Sara Mulligan and designated player Brianna Pearson are also strong hitters for Cheshire.
“I think we are a good hitting team,” Drust said. “There are some days when our energy is lacking a little bit and Natalie has kept us in the game. Those one-run games in the moment are stressful and I wish we were hitting the ball more but looking to the postseason those one-run games are valuable experience.”
It’s all added up to a 12-game win streak, leaving the Rams a serious threat to both the SCC and Class LL titles. The Rams have won the last two SCC championships and took home the state title in 2016 before falling to Southington in last year’s semis.
“I definitely think each team has to bring their pitching, hitting and defense this year,” Drust said. “There are always so many good teams and I think that is what makes the SCC so strong. It’s a tough place to be mentally and physically, but it’s what you want as a softball player.”
The race for the NVL title took a turn when now No. 2 Seymour was knocked off by St. Paul in a 4-3 thriller last Monday. Perhaps overlooked at 16-1, the Falcons have won 16 in a row since a season-opening loss to Watertown and earned the No. 10 spot in the latest poll.
“Generally, any time we have a loss like that in a close game it kind of opens our eyes,” said Seymour pitcher Molly Adamo after pitching a shutout against Oxford Friday. “We’re not invincible and we have to work hard every day to continue to do what we’re supposed to as Seymour softball.”
St. Paul has a trio of underclassmen hitting above .550 in sophomore Katrina Roy and juniors Jessica Persechino and Abby Poirot. Poirot is also 11-1 in the circle with 130 strikeouts in 77 innings.
Three-time defending Class S champion Holy Cross remains right in contention at 13-5, and Wolcott, Oxford, Sacred Heart and Watertown each boast strong records.
After Seymour dropped its first game, just four teams in the state (Masuk, Griswold, North Branford, Northwestern) remain undefeated. The Wildcats will meet St. Paul in their regular season finale on Thursday.
“We’re looking forward to this week,” Seymour coach Ken Pereiras said. “We play Naugatuck, which is a pretty good team, and St. Paul again. Those are two big games and then we’ll look forward to the tournament.”
Another week saw a handful of milestones across the state as seniors take their last swings at the plate down the stretch.
Amity’s Dani Nordyk and Lindsey O’Bright of St. Paul collected their 100th career hits.
— Amity Softball (@amity_softball) May 9, 2018
— St. Paul Softball (@StPaul_Softball) May 10, 2018
NFA’s Shea Gendron hit a home run to break the school’s hit record a 129.
Shea Gendron ‘18 clinches the NFA school softball record for career hits (129) with a homer in the third inning against the Stonington Bears. #wildcatpride #ctsb #nfawildcats pic.twitter.com/5fXtVB7UyN
— Norwich Free Academy (@nfaschool) May 10, 2018
Seymour’s Becca Johnson continued her torrid season by earning her 200th hit; Johnson is hitting .746 with 44 hits in 17 games.
— Kyle Brennan (@kylebrennan1) May 10, 2018
GAMES TO WATCH
GRISWOLD AT NORTH BRANFORD, Monday 6 p.m.: One of the games of the season: Two undefeated teams ranked in the top five battle in a possible Class M playoff preview.
MASUK AT BROOKFIELD, Monday 4:15 p.m.: The Bobcats get their crack at the SWC favorite; Masuk hasn’t allowed a run since April 20.
CHESHIRE AT AMITY, Monday 4 p.m.: Two top SCC teams clash in Woodbridge.
NORTHWESTERN AT WAMOGO, Wednesday 3:45 p.m.: Berkshire League leaders put their undefeated record on the line in Litchfield.
ST. PAUL AT SEYMOUR, Thursday 4 p.m.: Chance for Wildcats to avenge lone defeat.