TOURNAMENT PRIMER: SCOREBOARD | PLAYERS TO WATCH | TOP 10 POLL
Offense, or pitching in LL?
Last year’s late rounds of the Class LL tournament turned into a hitting exhibition, which culminated with Amity beating Trumbull 13-7 in the final, the highest combined run total ever in that class. Those two schools could meet in the second round this year as many of the top seeds own powerful lineups.
But pitchers might get their revenge this time around. Top-seeded South Windsor has potentially the best pitcher in the state in Maria Hanchuk, while Cheshire (Bri Pearson), Trumbull (Emily Gell/Kenzie Bruggeman and E.O. Smith (Hailey Golembiewski) aren’t far behind in delivering quality arms.
Eagles fly again?
Trumbull had never made a state final prior to 2017, but have done so in the first two seasons of Jacqui Sheftz’ tenure with the team. The Eagles won’t have to worry about St. Joseph — the only team to beat them this year — in this bracket.
They’ll have to worry about a lot of a host of teams after a first-round bye in Class LL though. In addition to a potential matchup with the Spartans, FCIAC rivals Stamford and Warde are on Trumbull’s side of the bracket, as well as perennial power Southington. A third straight trip will have to be earned once again.
1 from 3 in Class L
St. Joseph, Masuk and North Haven appear to be a cut above the rest in Class L, which sets up the prospect of an interesting semifinal between the last two. The No. 1 team in the state at year’s end could emerge from these three schools. The Indians were three outs away from their second straight SCC title while The Cadets (FCIAC) and Panthers (SWC) each won their conference titles.
St. Joseph edged Masuk 2-0 in the only meeting between these three squads. The Panthers were held under 10 runs just three times so far this season in amassing their 22-1 record.
St. Joseph has six state titles all time while Masuk has five. The Indians are after their second, with their first coming in 2008.
M for Mayhem
With St. Joseph’s move up to Class L, the deepest pool of potential state winners likely rests in Class M. Perennial power Seymour is after a fourth title in six years, but was upended in the NVL final by another Class M squad in Oxford. No. 4 ND-Fairfield’s lone loss to a Class M school came against Griswold; the two teams could meet in the second round.
Top-seeded Valley Regional (21-2) had its hopes for a perfect season dashed at 18-0, then fell again in the Shoreline final to North Branford, another team in this tournament which struggled at times during the regular season but finished with its fifth straight conference title.
There are plenty of other wild cards in the bracket, too. Northwestern (19-1) won the Berkshire League and might have its best ever chance to make a deep run, while Waterford (ECC) and Ellington (NCCC) posted 17-3 records and fell short of conference titles.
Rest or momentum?
The weather forced tournaments to finish late last week, which leaves little time to breathe before the first two rounds of states begin Tuesday and Wednesday. ND-Fairfield, for instance, played six games in seven days — including five in a row — culminating with its SWC final loss to Masuk.
Most teams across the state played in a conference tournament, save the Berkshire League and CCC. Strong CCC squads in Southington, E.O. Smith and South Windsor are far more rested and might see this as an advantage in the later rounds.