STRATFORD >> Oxford is leaving the South-West Conference with one heck of a parting gift.
The third-seeded Wolverines scored twice in the top of the ninth inning and then held off a Lauralton Hall rally to capture the SWC softball tournament championship with a 2-0 victory over the No. 1 Crusaders Thursday at DeLuca Field.
Sophomore Meg Sastrum’s RBI groundout plated the first run and junior Allyson Sweeney’s run-scoring single gave Oxford a bit of insurance, helping the Wolverines (20-3) capture their second conference tournament in three seasons.
Oxford will leave the SWC and join the Naugatuck Valley League beginning next school year.
“It means a lot, especially this one,” Oxford coach Jim Husar said. “This is our last year in the SWC. It’s a nice way to leave.”
Lauralton Hall (19-4), which was also playing in its final SWC tournament before bolting to the SCC next season, put runners on the corners in the bottom of the ninth.
Oxford junior pitcher Ashley Guillette ended the game by catching an infield popup. She allowed three hits, walked one, struck out 15 and was named the game’s most valuable player. Guillette guided the Wolverines to the SWC championship as a freshman, and to the Class S state title last season.
“It’s great,” Guillette said. “We have two banners now. We’re proud of it.”
In the top of the ninth, sophomore Makena Hillman hit a one-out single for Oxford. Junior Kaley Kempf followed with a single, which advanced Hillman to third, and Kempf took second on the throw. Sastrum then hit a sharp grounder to second, which allowed Hillman to score the eventual winning run.
“It’s phenomenal,” Sastrum said. “Indescribable.”
Said Guillette: “I knew we could get it done, I had faith. I knew sooner or later the hits would come around.”
Sweeney followed Sastrum’s run-scoring groundout with a hard single up the middle to score Kempf, who finished with two hits. The two runs were more than enough for Guillette and Oxford.
“We feel comfortable (up two with Guillette pitching),” Husar said. “She works hard. We made it a little nervous in the last inning, but (Lauralton) is a good team.”
The Crusaders put their leadoff hitter on base in both the fifth and the seventh, but each runner failed to reach third base.
“We had chances,” Lauralton Hall coach Amanda Acampora said. “We didn’t do what we can do with those chances, what we have done all year with those chances. We missed a couple of chances. But Ashley is an amazing pitcher. We knew we had a battle coming into this game.”
Alexa Dawid, Jackie Brewester and Lindsey Spitz all singled for the Crusaders.
Junior pitcher Haley Congdon allowed five hits, didn’t walk a batter and struck out 14 for Lauralton Hall. Congdon threw 100 pitches in the Crusaders’ semifinal victory over Newtown, which ended late on Wednesday.
“Again, I am not making excuses for them at all, but we didn’t get back to Lauralton Hall until 10 o’clock (Wednesday night), and then to do it all over again today,” Acampora said. “It plays into it a little bit. But Haley’s been our workhorse all year long. She’s been prepared for this. She threw an amazing game. That’s a good offense. She did a good job.”
OXFORD 2, LAURALTON HALL 0 (9)
Oxford 000 000 002 — 2 5 0
Lauralton Hall 000 000 000 — 0 3 1
Ashley Guillette and Sam Orner; Haley Congdon and Alex Moleski.
WP: Ashley Guillette. LP: Haley Congdon. RBI: Sastrum, Sweeney (OX)
Team records: Oxford 20-3; Lauralton Hall 19-4.