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East Lyme - The goal for both teams, Waterford and Stonington's high school softball programs, was to get the chance to play today.
To get there took some work.
First, they played each other for nine innings in a regular-season game on Wednesday, a pitchers' duel eventually won by Waterford, 2-0. Then both teams had to win a doubleheader Thursday in the Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament. Check.
Now, today. Top-seeded Waterford and No. 2 Stonington. ECC championship game. At Griswold, 7 p.m.
"Today was so long; that Waterford game, I feel like it was three months ago," Stonington coach Ann-Marie Houle said in a telephone interview after her sweep of Ledyard (7-2) and Griswold (9-2) on Thursday.
"The kids are excited. I'm tired, let me make something perfectly clear."
Waterford, meanwhile, blanked Plainfield 15-0 in five innings in the quarterfinals at Waterford before edging Fitch 4-2 in the semifinals at Niantic's Veterans Memorial Field.
"It's a lot of softball," Waterford senior shortstop Alyssa Hancock said. "Even the week before we had four games. Today, when (Fitch) came back, we felt the nerves come in, but that's what we like. We love the tightness of a game."
Hancock had three hits against Plainfield, a game in which Megan Spellman pitched a one-hitter.
Then, with all-state pitcher Kelli Connors in the midst of a three-hit, 13-strikeout performance against Fitch, Hancock put the Falcons on their heels with the first pitch in the bottom of the first inning. Hancock homered to straight-away center field, giving the Lancers (21-1) an air of confidence right away.
"It was Alyssa. She set the tone that we were going to be able to hit this pitcher," Waterford coach Liz Sutman said. "Alyssa's a dynamo. I say, 'as she goes, so goes our team.' Yet without Kelli dialed in out in the circle we wouldn't be who we are either. They're a great duo."
Waterford took a 2-0 lead on an RBI single by Elaina Sullivan in the second inning before Fitch tied it 2-2 in the fourth.
Roslyn Wilhelm drew a one-out walk for the Falcons, followed by an RBI triple by Haley Cooper, an infield single by Bridget Thomson and a walk to Holly Noe to load the bases. Jackie Lewis hit a sharp ground ball to second base but Kate Haff's throw wasn't in time for the force at the plate, allowing courtesy runner Haley Flax to score the tying run.
Connors then recorded a strikeout and a popup to get out of the bases-loaded jam.
Sullivan's leadoff single in the fifth, however, had a pair of Fitch outfield errors tacked onto it - both on the same play - for the go-ahead run. And Waterford scored again in the sixth on a double by Courtney Borysewicz, a wild pitch and a ground ball RBI by Spellman.
"Coming in, we were pumped and we knew they were pumped after their first game," Hancock said of Fitch. "We talked about jumping on them right away. Against Stonington we waited until the ninth inning to score. We had to jump on them, make the first move."
Fitch beat Bacon 7-6 in the quarterfinals, scoring four runs in the bottom of the seventh with nobody out. Stephanie Filosa had a two-run single and Alesha Mancini a two-run double to win it.
"We propelled ourselves into the second game. We didn't want to put ourselves in the same deficit as the first game," Fitch coach Kate Peruzzotti said. "I give a lot of credit to Alana (Luzzio, who pitched both games for Fitch). It takes a lot of strength, a lot of stamina, to keep going out there."
For Stonington, Theresa Kane struck out 10 to earn the win over Ledyard and also went 2-for-4 with a double and two runs scored. Andrea Chiaradio was 3-for-3 with a double and three runs scored.
Chiaradio then struck out 10 against Griswold and went 2-for-2 with an RBI, while Kane was 3-for-4 with a double and two RBI. Alexis Baker added a single, a double and two RBI for the Bears (19-3). Kirsten Drobiak had a solo home run for Griswold in the sixth.