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Preston - Having coached a number of his players on travel teams before, as well, Pawcatuck/North Stonington manager Tom Lennon has seen how they react to defeat.
He's confident they'll play well today in the deciding game of the Little League Softball (11-12) Connecticut Section II tournament against Preston/Jewett City.
"It's like losing on Saturday (in a travel tournament) when you're playing for seedings," Lennon said. "You just have to win on Sunday."
It's just that the 4-2 defeat to Preston on Thursday was the first for the Pawcatuck all-star team since it began play in the recent District 10 tournament, having gone 9-0 in the district and section tournaments to that point.
Then Preston scored three times in the first inning, with four of the first five batters getting hits, and led the entire game to force a second matchup between the teams in the double-elimination tournament.
The deciding game will be played at 5:30 p.m. today at Preston Community Park.
Pawcatuck, trailing 4-0, rallied for two runs in the fifth on an RBI double by Erin Craig and an RBI single by Lainnie Connor, but couldn't score in the sixth and final inning despite loading the bases with one out and the top of the order coming to bat.
Preston manager Glen LaBossiere made a trip to the mound to speak with pitcher Bailey Comeau, who then retired the final two batters on strikeouts.
"She's the perfect pitcher; she doesn't ever have a meltdown," LaBossiere said. "Could a (Pawcatuck) kid come out and get a hit in that situation? Absolutely. But you know she's going to give it her best."
Pawcatuck and Preston did not play each other earlier in the tournament, as Preston lost its first game to Middletown 8-2 to fall into the losers' bracket, while Pawcatuck remained in the winners' bracket.
Preston came back with a 5-4 win over Middletown in the losers' bracket final to get the chance to face Pawcatuck.
Neither team's starting pitcher from Thursday, Pawcatuck's Trinity Lennon or Preston's Comeau, will be eligible to pitch in tonight's game, with Little League rules requiring they have a day off in between appearances.
Kendra Perez will start for Pawcatuck and Maya Waldron will pitch for Preston.
Comeau pitched a six-hitter with eight strikeouts, stranding nine Pawcatuck runners, while Lennon came back with three straight hitless innings after the first, keeping Preston off-balance with her change of speeds. She also allowed six hits and struck out four.
"We didn't get the big hit when we needed the big hit, but I'm confident we will," Tom Lennon said. "We'll see what happens. The banner's there for us to take it. I know they'll come back strong; they're too good a team not to."
Lennon said the travel teams, the Connecticut Cyclones (12-and-under) and the Connecticut Fusion (14-and-under), which begin competing in April each year, were put together with Little League in mind.
"You only play 12-16 games a year when you get to all-star stuff," Lennon said. "The girls need more than 16 games a year to play well together. ... They've played 40 or 50 games already this year."
Colette Dreher and Craig each finished with a single and a double for Pawcatuck.
LaBossiere, meanwhile, also the Griswold High School athletic director, pointed out that both teams in the finals of the sectional are from towns based in the Eastern Connecticut Conference.
LaBossiere's daughter Madison, the Preston catcher, had two hits and scored two runs.
"What a great experience for these girls," LaBossiere said. "How great is it that the girls from both teams are the girls that make up our conference? It shows that we're pretty good at softball at this end of the state."