State final weekend lived up to the hype and then some.
Four games. Three decided by one run and the fourth decided by two. The tying run was at the plate with two outs in the seventh in all four games.
The season officially ended when Southington held off NFA 7-6 to win in its 18th state championship in school history. Given this spectacular record, it seems impossible that the Blue Knights would ever fly under the radar, but they did this year.
“They were hungry and just worked really hard,” Southington coach Davina Hernandez said. “I think they kind of liked that they were doubted. You have a target on your back when you’re No. 1 and expected to win. We talked about it all year that we didn’t look at the losses as a bad thing.”
— Ryan Lacey (@RyanLacey11) June 8, 2019
Early-season losses to Bristol Eastern and Cheshire — both by one run that could have easily been wins — led to a second-half surge. The lone blip — and last loss of the season — came against South Windsor May 10. The Knights won back-to-back one-run games against Newington and Hall, teams they beat by double digits a year ago.
Southington thrived in close games when the Class LL tournament finally arrived. Defense and pitcher Julia Panarella held firm during tough moments, including during a 3-2 win over Ridgefield in the quarterfinals.
Against NFA, Southington made one small error in the field while its counterpart made four. That proved to be the difference as the Wildcats scored four times in the seventh to pull to within a run.
“It was a total team effort and these kids have been such a selfless group,” Hernandez said. “Kids come out of the game and cheer for their teammates, and you don’t always see that. They’re a good group of people and I enjoy coaching them.”
PANTHERS SURVIVE CINDERELLA
Masuk cemented its team as the No. 1 team in the state thanks to a 2-0 win over East Haven in the Class L final Friday night at DeLuca Field in Stratford.
Its big-time players stepped up with the game in the balance. With the score 0-0 in the top of the sixth, Meg McFarland hit a double down the left field line, and would eventually score on a Maddie Procyk sac fly.
Another scored on a walk with the bases loaded, and with ace Sam Schiebe locked in (15 strikeouts, two hits allowed), that’s all the Panthers’ needed.
The Yellowjackets were close to rewriting the story in the top of the sixth as they stranded a pair by lining out hard to center field with two outs. Tori Heaphy emerged as one of the best pitchers in the state, first behind her shutout against St. Joes in the second round of the tournament.
— Peter Huoppi (@phuoppi) June 9, 2019
Class M was as exciting as advertised, and Waterford was the last team standing after a 6-5 win over Seymour that included an astounding nine errors between the two teams.
Three of those errors got the Wildcats back into the contest, which tied the game 5-5 and had them thinking of a fourth Class M title in six years. But Gina McKittrick hit a RBI single with two outs in the fourth to give the Lancers the lead for good. Seymour thought it had tied the game, but a lineout turned into a double play with a runner on second and one out in the seventh.
Waterford will return all but two starters next year, including junior Rachel Miller. She hit .500 at the plate while pitching to a 20-3 record with a 1.33 ERA and 132 strikeouts in a competitive ECC.
(Video via The Day of New London)
— Will Aldam (@AldamWill) June 8, 2019
Somers completed its run though class S by staging a rally to beat Coginchaug 3-2 Friday night at West Haven. The Spartans earned their first ever state crown over a team that was 11-4 in state finals prior to this year. Alyssa Milliken delivered a two-run infield hit for the Spartans in the top of the seventh while trailing 2-1.
Somers didn’t qualify for the NCCC tournament, but won five straight to finish off a 19-6 season. The Spartans fell in the second round a year ago and hadn’t made the semifinals in over a decade.