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Waterford - These towns which share a border, East Lyme and Waterford, had two of the most successful high school softball programs in the region last year.
The rivals and co-champions in the Eastern Connecticut Conference Large Division were the finalists in the ECC tournament, too, won by East Lyme. Then Waterford took some of the sting away from that defeat, if not entirely, by going out and winning the Class M state championship.
Somehow, the schedule-makers paired them together again Friday, an East Lyme-Waterford renewal.
East Lyme won 7-6 behind a five-run fourth-inning, stranding Waterford runners at second and third in the bottom of the seventh for the victory.
It was the first game for East Lyme, the second for Waterford (0-2).
"I did not want to open with them," East Lyme coach Judy Deeb said. "Especially here (where the Vikings lost to Waterford in the teams' first meeting last year). It was the same score as last year for awhile, too. I thought, 'This is foreboding.' All I saw was the same bloopers as last year."
"It's a big rivalry. It's always tough," East Lyme senior center fielder Morgan Lloyd said. "We didn't know how Waterford was going to come out. At the plate, all of us had trouble getting started, but we build off each other as a team."
Waterford led 2-0 after the first inning on a two-run triple by Elaina Sullivan, scoring Sara Buscetto and Jodi Weiss.
East Lyme finally broke through in the fourth, getting a leadoff walk to Sarah Bond, a two-strike hit by Kirsten McGinty and a two-run double to left field by winning pitcher Erica Hill to tie the game 2-2.
One out later, Megan Lanier singled to put runners on second and third and that brought up leadoff hitter Kaylie Crosby, who connected for a two-run single to right and took third on an error.
The final run came after Samantha Horner drew a two-out walk and got herself in a rundown to allow Crosby to race home, giving the Vikings a 5-2 lead they would not relinquish.
Each team had 11 hits and combined for three errors, with both still working on "fine-tuning" a few things, as Waterford coach Liz Sutman put it.
The Lancers lost 15-3 the day before to another ECC Large Division team in Fitch - Waterford moved to the Medium Division this year - but Sutman said she saw improvement in her team against the Vikings.
"We had much better at-bats," Sutman said. "I had a talk with them after yesterday and I gave them a special little thing to breathe, to relax, everyone take a deep breath and start over.
"They haven't seen enough live pitching. They haven't seen enough situations. My list is growing."
Waterford scored one in the fourth when Sarah Pacheco tripled and scored on a single by Karena Bushey and pulled within 5-4 with another run in the fifth on an RBI single by Sullivan.
Lloyd's two-run single in the sixth gave East Lyme a 7-4 lead and Waterford came to the plate in the seventh trailing by that margin.
Buscetto singled, making her 4-for-4, and Sullivan drew a two-out walk. Megan Elphick singled to right for one run and Ally Pezzolesi singled for her first varsity hit to make it 7-6 and put runners on second and third.
East Lyme reliever Meghan Welch got the final out on a ground ball to Shae Crosby at second base.
"I know my team is going to be a good hitting team," Deeb said of East Lyme. "Some of the kids were very nervous. ... They're confident (after going 21-3 last year). They see what we do in practice. I just think we need some game experience."