WEST HAVEN >> No. 10 Barlow beat No. 4 Torrington 4-2 for the Class L State Softball Championship Saturday afternoon in a game that promoted a couple of radical ideas.
First, maybe there’s such a thing as too much experience. Second, maybe one lights-out softball pitcher isn’t enough.
Both teams arrived at West Haven for their programs’ first-ever state finals.
All but one Torrington starter is a senior who’s played with her teammates through quarterfinal and semifinal rounds for the past three years. For the Red Raiders, and especially ace pitcher Ali DuBois, it was now or never to finish the climb.
The Falcons’ three captains – Sammy Hilford, Briana Marcelino and Kristen Acocella – are the only seniors on a team with a first-year coach, Craig Sears, and five starting freshmen and sophomores. After climbing so fast so soon, what’s to lose now?
Just before the National Anthem, the field announcer intoned a Barlow starting pitcher change, from junior Caitlin Colangelo to freshman Claire McCann.
“I know it goes against the mythology of high school softball,” Sears said. “But I have two pitchers and I’m going to use them. I think it takes more than one.”
The first inning started badly for experience. DuBois, a dominating pitcher throughout her career, worked through the first two Flacon batters on a groundout and strikeout, then lost finals-MVP Marcelino to a walk after a long at-bat.
DuBois showed visible signs of stress on the mound.
“I felt like I couldn’t breathe. It was so much pressure and nerves,” she said. “I just didn’t feel like myself.”
The next batter, junior Taylor Macchia poked a single into right center field, bringing Marcelino all the way around for the game’s first run. In the bottom of the inning, McCann gave up an infield hit to Carissa Carbone while striking out the side.
“I try not to think about who we’re playing,” McCann said. “I just go out and pitch.”
DuBois’s defense turned a double play in the second to erase another walk. But a leadoff walk to freshman Catie Bourdiette in the third was the start of disaster. Acocella (2-for-4) pushed pinch runner Theresa Galban to third on a single. Hilford’s sacrifice fly scored Galban. Marcelino brought Acocella in with another single, 3-0.
“Everybody was off a little bit,” Torrington coach Maryann Musselman said. “Ali had a lot of pressure on her. She has been leading us all the way. We never walk that many.”
Or, when they get on, DuBois usually wipes them off. This time, with five walks and just three strikeouts, compared with 13 Ks against No. 1 Pomperaug in the semifinals, three of the Barlow walks scored runs.
Meanwhile, McCann (six strikeoouts, one walk) rolled on unscathed for two more innings. In the bottom of the fourth, DuBois, the Raiders’ best hitter, led off with a home run followed by a hit by Amanda Thiel (2-for-3) and a fielder’s choice that landed Lauren Jamieson on third for a breath of Torrington hope.
McCann left her there with a strikeout to end the inning, then gave way to Colangelo in the bottom of the fifth.
“When batters start to catch on to one of our pitchers, I think the change throws them off,” Sears said.
Torrington (21-5) is used to big late innings for its wins. The bottom of the sixth had those marks, beginning with a leadoff single by Carbone and a double by DuBois. But a perfect relay from center fielder Acocella through shortstop Marcelino caught Carbone at the plate.
Alexa Reynolds, running for DuBois, scored on a wild pitch to make it 3-2. But back-to-back hits by Thiel and Jamieson weren’t enough to continue the chase. Colangelo got the final two outs on a strikeout and pop-up leaving Theld and Jamison on first and third.
In the top of the seventh, a walk to sophomore Scotland Davis and an RBI double by freshman Boudiette put the game away.
Torrington had runners on first and second on the Raiders’ final shot in the bottom of the inning. A comebacker to Colangelo turned the final out.
“That’s a good team. They definitely beat us today,” said Musselman, who fields a brand new team next year.
Barlow 4, No. 4 Torrington 2
Barlow 102 000 1 – 4 5 0
Torrington 000 101 0 – 2 8 1
WP: Claire McCann. LP: Ali DuBois. HR: T – DuBois. 2B: B – Catie Bourdiette. T – DuBois.
Records: Joel Barlow 19-6; Torrington 21-5.