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Branford softball's 2013 season took on a similar shape as the preceding campaign for the Hornets struggled out of the gates at 2-8 and were again in danger of missing the postseason. But just like in 2012, Chuck Reale's team saved the best for last by winning six of its final 10 regular season contests to propel itself into the playoffs.
Branford's latter-half surge began with a 7-2 win at Cross, followed by a 3-1 win against West Haven, a 20-4 triumph at Hillhouse, and then a 7-2 win versus Lyman Hall. Then on the heels of two defeats, the Hornets posted the year's definitive victory by prevailing at North Haven 1-0, after which they downed fellow Oronoque foe Cross 9-1, won at Guilford 14-3, and then posted a 12-1 win at Career that clinched their Class L bid with a game to spare.
"We just kept telling the kids to grind it out, work as hard as they can, and do their best. We stayed and the course and started getting the bounces and the timely hits," said Coach Reale, whose team finished at 8-13 after losing to Berlin in the first round of states. "We didn't want the kids to get discouraged or doubt their abilities and they righted the ship at the end of the season."
Reale said his team stayed together through the tough times and extends credit for that to his large senior class of eight athletes that was led by captains Taylor Perry and Lauren Atkinson. Perry moved from first base in 2012 to third base this year and batted .292 with three triples, two home runs, and 16 RBI en route to All-Oronoque honors. Atkinson won two key games on the mound by besting Hillhouse and Cross.
"I'm very proud of the job Taylor and Lauren did as captains. They were focused and determined leaders and the rest of our seniors took their cues from them. Our team never had to fix anything outside of the field," Reale said. "Taylor had to relearn how to play third base because we put Tara Dering at first and was diligent in doing so while raising her batting average in the second half. Lauren pitched some key innings for us in relief and kept a lid on things when she started."
A fellow key member of the Hornets' senior class was second baseman Dani Datre, who posted a .262 batting average with seven RBI and four stolen bases. Coach Reale complimented Datre for being an effective bunter and providing a steady glove as she owned an .870 fielding percentage.
Another senior was Jess Teulings, who made no errors in right field and recorded a key outfield assist in the North Haven win. She was joined as a starting outfielder by two fellow seniors in left fielder Kelsey Austin, who had two homers; and center fielder Kelly Loftis, who finished with an .895 fielding percentage and 10 walks.
Also in the senior class were Aliza Danker, who played all three outfield spots and who Reale noted for her bunting skills and intangible spirit; as well as Megan Wirtz, who was a valuable pinch hitter and pinch runner.
The captains for next season will be catcher Cassidy Murphy and first baseman Dering. Murphy made All-Oronoque by batting .344 with 22 hits, including eight doubles. Dering scored 17 runs and committed just one error in posting a fielding percentage of .994.
Another key returning athlete will be senior pitcher Megan Ferraro, who won six games and walked just 12 batters in 99 1/3 innings to make the All-Oronoque squad.
"All three girls will be at the helm of our leadership next year," Reale said. "They all have the perfect makeup in terms of how they approach the game and bring their competitive nature from other sports to softball."
Also coming back as seniors will be outfielder Jamie Ardito and center fielder Sydney DeGoursey. Branford's juniors will be Julia Rosenberg, who pitched in three games this year; as well as infielder/outfielder Jordyn Brecciaroli; Marissa Guglielmi, who had 16 hits as the DH and will play either left or right field next year; plus starting shortstop Nicole Carrano and second baseman Cynthia Lerman, who played JV this spring before being called up for the postseason.
Reale was assisted by John Kustra and JV Coach Katie Rebeschi, who was aided by senior student-assistant coach Olivia Bergmann. Senior James Integlia completed his fourth season as Branford's director of media relations.