This was not the easiest of weeks to cast ballots in the GameTimeCT/Register Top 10 high school softball poll.
Four of the top 10 teams suffered defeats as did seven of the 16 teams in the “others receiving votes category.”
Just 12 months earlier, there was no such drama when it came to ranking the state’s best teams as six of the top 10 teams were undefeated heading into May. Top 10 team St. Joseph was perfect against Connecticut competition and Southington’s lone blemish came to undefeated Fitch in a much-anticipated No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown.
Fast forward to the current state of affairs and just four undefeated teams are in the top 10 (actually, it’s a top 11 as Masuk and Middletown are tied for 10th).
Consider what took place in a seven-day span:
Sunday: Masuk, then ranked fifth, lost to unranked St. Joseph 5-4 in eight innings, No. 10 Middletown fell to unranked E.O. Smith 4-3.
Monday: Cheshire beat Amity 8-5 in a top 10 matchup; previously undefeated Stamford lost 5-4 to unranked Darien.
Thursday: In a showdown featuring top 5 teams, Southington emerged with a 2-1 win over Norwich Free Academy; Masuk fell to unranked Pomperaug 4-0; Hale-Ray defeated North Branford 4-2.
Saturday: Seymour suffered its first loss of the season 9-4 to Oxford. A Westhill team on the verge of breaking into the top 10 lost 2-1 in nine innings to a Fairfield Warde team already with three losses; East Granby’s perfect season ended with a 4-1 loss to Torrington.
“I think that pitching is down a little bit, there are only a few great pitchers in the state so that’s why teams will suffer tough losses,” Seymour coach Ken Pereiras said. “(Saturday) night we got banged pretty good by Oxford. They had 12-13 hits. We walked eight batters. Our pitching is OK and I think a lot of teams are in our boat when the pitching is just OK so some good teams can lose big games.”
Seymour is also currently playing without cleanup hitter Chelsea Avila, a .467 hitter as a junior. Avila recently suffered an ankle injury and it is uncertain when she will return to the lineup.
“A bad sprain. She is in a hard cast and she will have that for a week. Next week she will be getting it off and getting into a boot,” Pereiras said. “It may be two or three weeks. We are hoping to get her back by the tournaments, but as of right now it is tough to say because she is in a hard cast and it could take a while.”
Cheshire continues to set the pace, earning every first-place vote for the third week in a row. Southington moves into the No. 2 spot in the poll while Seymour falls to No. 4.
Indians rolling along
Thanks in large part to a dominant Fitch team, it’s been standard operating procedure for at least one undefeated team to head into the CIAC Class L tournament undefeated.
Well, before the calendar turned from April to May, each of the 41 Class L teams have tasted defeat at least once.
It’s a much different story in the other three divisions as Cheshire, Glastonbury and Southington have perfect records in LL, Griswold and Wilcox Tech are unbeaten in Class M while Class S powers Hale Ray and Notre Dame-Fairfield are both 11-0.
North Haven (8-1) and Pomperaug (10-2) have the longest active winning streaks among Class L teams as both head into Monday’s action as winners of eight games in a row.
Pomperaug is coming off a run to the 2016 Class L quarterfinals so maybe the success of the Panthers shouldn’t come as a surprise especially with the return of senior pitcher, a Central Connecticut State signee.
North Haven, however, won nine regular-season games a season ago. A win on Monday against Foran would be the Indians’ ninth win of the season. The Indians haven’t won at least 10 regular-season games dating back to the 2013 season.
With 18 of the 26 players on the roster either freshmen or sophomores, that could be changing.
The sophomore class looks to be an especially talented one featuring pitcher Lauren Card as well as Olivia Peterson and Caitlin Ranciato, who each had three-hit games in a recent win over Law. Classmates Peyton Davis and Gigi Russo combined for five RBIs in a victory over West Haven while Russo drove in four runs in a win over Sacred Heart Academy.
“They’ve been hitting the ball real well,” North Haven coach Sally Maher said. “They’ve put a lot of work in during the offseason, they played fall ball together, they played in the winter together.”
The four seniors have also played key roles in North Haven’s impressive start.
Ariana DelVecchio and Anna Stowe are the team captains. DelVecchio is a three-year starter while Maher said fellow seniors Stowe, Laurissa Amaker and Carly VanDeusen have delivered some clutch hits this season.
The schedule has been a little different. The Southern Connecticut Conference changed up the divisions and after years of fighting it out with East Haven for division titles, the Indians are now in the Oronoque Division with Lauralton Hall, Lyman Hall, Sheehan and Wilbur Cross.
“There’s no sense of tradition anymore,” Maher said, “It will change every couple of years. We don’t play East Haven and we have played them for years, they’ve been a rivals of ours.”