FAIRFIELD — It will be one day short of a calendar year for Trumbull when it gets the opportunity it has worked all season to achieve — an FCIAC title.
The Eagles improved to 21-1 overall with a 5-1 victory over Fairfield Warde on Tuesday night at Sacred Heart University.
With the victory, No. 2 seed Trumbull (17-1 FCIAC) gets a chance for a reversal of fortune when it faces defending champion and No. 1 seed St. Joseph (22-0, 18-1 FCIAC) in a 5 p.m. title game on Thursday at SHU’s Pioneer Park.
The Cadets fulfilled their end of the bargain with a 6-1 win over Stamford in their semifinal on Monday.
St. Joseph defeated Trumbull, 6-0, in last year’s championship game. It was their fourth league title in five seasons.
“Getting out of the first inning and getting the bats in our hands was important,” said Trumbull coach Jacqui Sheftz. “We felt getting the early lead, and having the experience of being here (in the semis), was to our advantage.”
No. 6 seed Warde (13-6, 12-6 FCIAC) had first ups and put the ball in play, but a fine sliding catch in right field by Maggie Coffin took the sting out of a two-out single from Haley Bivens.
Olivia Vadas struck out the first two Trumbull batters, but then the Eagles put together a rally.
Kenzie Bruggeman singled, but Vadas, a Sacred Heart University commit, got ahead of Cassie Barbato with a pair of strikes on the outside corner. Two pitches later, the lefty-swinging Barbato took an outside pitch into left field for a base hit. Alexia Adinolfi was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Emily Gell walked to force in a run.
That brought freshman Kiley Barbagallo to the plate. She drilled a base-clearing double to stake Gell to a 4-0 advantage.
Lizzie Kane clubbed a long home run into the screen in left field to open the Warde third. However, fine plays in the outfield by Ava Dunn in left field and Adinolfi in center limited the Mustangs to the solo tally.
Vadas settled in and retired 11 Eagles in a row at one point, before Coffin beat out an infield hit in the fifth. Vadas left her on base with one of her nine strikeouts.
In the meantime, Warde kept putting pressure on the Trumbull defense only to come away disappointed.
Amanda Petrizzi opened the fifth with the Mustangs’ third hit, a single to center.
Gell found her strikeout pitch in the middle frames and notched one of them to bring Kane into the batter’s box
A senior, Kane ripped a pitch deep to right-center field. Adinolfi got on her horse and with her back to the plate made an outstanding running catch, holding onto the ball as she got to the fence. The senior’s brilliant play drew an ovation from the large crowd.
“We can’t come and play an average game against Trumbull, we had to be above average,” Warde coach Kenya McVey said. “I thought Lizzie’s homer was a momentum changer. We got base runners on, but we didn’t move them over and we didn’t get them in.”
Warde’s Sophie Sancho began the sixth with a single. Barbagallo flashed some leather of her own, as she snared Jasmine Castro’s ball to the left of the first base bag. She made the pivot and throw to Julia Huzi at second for the force out. A strikeout and another groundout to Barbagallo at second ended the inning.
Trumbull scored its fifth run after a leadoff one-hop double to the fence in left-center by Barbato. Adinolfi sacrificed her to third, and she scored on Gell’s infield hit.
NOT YOUR USUAL PUTOUT
Warde’s Haley Bivens at first base and second baseman Sophie Sancho turned an unusual 3-4-3 defensive gem in the home third. Cassie Barbato sliced the ball off Bivens’ mitt, but it went right to Sancho, who flipped the ball back to Bivens for the out.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Trumbull High’s Emily Gell allowed only five hits, struck out seven batters and didn’t give up a walk. She had a hit and drove in two runs.
“We aren’t surprised (when a teammate makes a great play),” Trumbull shortstop Julia Huzi said. “We work so hard every day, so that in a game we just react. Coach always says that defense wins championships — that pushes us even harder.”