Momentum swings and Waterford takes charge

Groton - Waterford's players were trying to get coach Liz Sutman to buy that the play on which Friday afternoon's game turned was planned.

"Yeah," said Sutman, who admitted to a headache afterward. "Not planned."

Waterford won the Eastern Connecticut Conference Large Division softball game, beating Fitch High School 4-1 to remain unbeaten and in first place in the division.

But the game was still tied 1-1 in the fourth inning with Fitch batting. Courtesy runner Joscelyn Amar was on third base. Leadoff hitter Alana Luzzio was at bat. And Waterford catcher Elaina Sullivan's throw back to pitcher Kelli Connors was a bit off line, rolling away from Connors.

Amar broke for the plate. Waterford shortstop Alyssa Hancock sprinted to the ball and threw a perfect strike back to Sullivan for the out.

Waterford then scored three times in the fifth to seal the victory.

"I saw that (the runner) was pretty far away from the plate. I was like, 'Just chuck it at me,'" said Sullivan, a sophomore in her second season at the Lancers' starting catcher.

"I feel like a rock back there. I feel like I hurt them with all my equipment on, but I can't do anything about that. ... Alyssa didn't even turn around until we screamed at her. Alyssa at shortstop, she's so fast. That (play) shook them up a little, I'm sure."

It was then Sullivan, with one out in the fifth, that hit a home run to center field for the go-ahead run. Hancock followed with a triple to right-center field and scored on a squeeze bunt by Talia Rickerson, who later scored on a wild pitch to make it 4-1.

Hancock had a double and a triple, Christine Hadfield was 3-for-3 with an RBI and Connors pitched a four-hitter with 11 strikeouts, three walks and two hit batters. Connors struck out the side in the seventh inning.

Fitch (11-2, 4-2), which has lost only to Waterford, stranded nine runners, including leaving the bases loaded in the first inning. Luzzio allowed six Waterford hits, striking out nine and walking two, but struggled with being called for illegal pitches early in the game.

Waterford, ranked sixth in the state, is 12-1 overall, 6-0 in the ECC Large.

"We need to be more aggressive on the bases," said Fitch coach Kate Peruzzotti, asked about the key play at the plate. "I will never say 'don't' (try to score in that situation.) I will say don't wait for me to tell you. By screaming, all you're doing is drawing attention to the fact you should go. ... But you can't live in coulda, woulda, shoulda."

Waterford scored a run in the first when Connors walked and courtesy runner Hannah Swanson scored on a triple to center field by Hadfield.

Fitch tied it 1-1 in the bottom of the first when the speedy Luzzio reached on a three-base outfield error and was squeezed home by Roslyn Wilhelm.

Connors allowed Fitch baserunners in every inning, but worked around it. She got Bridget Thomson to line out to Jaime Dahl in right field to end the fifth with a runner on second base. Rickerson, playing center for Waterford, tracked down a shot to the gap by Jackie Lewis to end the sixth with two runners on.

"Kelli's a great pitcher," Peruzzotti said. "She's not going to throw you a strike if you'll swing at something that's not."

"Textbook Kelli," Sutman said of her all-state pitcher. "The more pressure, the better she performs."

Sutman called Sullivan's home run "fantastic." Sullivan hits out of the No. 9 slot.

"We tell the kids, 'Anyone out there can be the one,'" Sutman said. "Don't look side to side, look straight ahead and say, 'Come on guys. Follow me.' ... She was an amazing addition (last year). The first pitch of her varsity career, they stole and she threw them out. She means business."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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