Falcons, despite their youth, continue to soar in ECC Large

Groton - Sometimes, freshman catcher Taylor Wolfgang is so unassuming at practice that it takes Fitch High School softball coach Arielle Cooper a minute or two to notice she's there.

"Like, 'Oh, hey, Taylor,'" Cooper said. "She doesn't say 'boo.'"

Then there's what Wolfgang does in a game.

First off, she calls all the pitches for sophomore ace Caroline Taber, who threw a three-hitter Tuesday in a 6-1 victory over East Lyme, the defending Eastern Connecticut Conference Large Division co-champion. Taber trusts her implicitly.

The Falcons' cleanup hitter, Wolfgang also drove in three of the team's runs against East Lyme, drilling a two-run triple in the first inning and making it 4-1 with a sacrifice fly in the third.

Fitch, which finished just outside the top 10 in this week's New Haven Register poll, is 7-0 overall, 2-0 in the ECC Large.

"I think Taylor's an amazing catcher," said Taber, in her first season as the Falcons' primary starting pitcher. "I know she's always going to get the runner at (second). She's got a cannon for an arm."

"She's just very calm," Cooper said of Wolfgang. "You can't tell there's an inch of stress on her face. ... We worked with her and Caroline working together on how to throw certain pitches and before the game we'll go over the other team's hitters. She's a good kid and she knows the game, so it's easy to trust her."

Fitch was swept by East Lyme last season, 8-1 and 1-0, so it wasn't without nerves that the Falcons faced the Vikings, who won last year's ECC tournament and finished 21-3.

"I was nervous. East Lyme's a great team," Taber said. "We didn't know how it'd be between us."

Fitch scored three in the first inning, however, to take the pressure off Taber. Nalissa Amar led off with a chop in front of the plate for a base hit and was replaced at first after a fielder's choice by Jackie Lewis.

Taber hit a bloop single and Wolfgang tripled in both runs. With two outs, Jo Hobert then blooped a ball over first base to score Wolfgang.

East Lyme (6-2, 2-1) made it 3-1 in the third with an unearned run off Taber and threatened to score more, with the Vikings laying down three successful bunts in a row. Shae Crosby led off the inning with a bunt single, Hannah Burke reached when her bunt was misplayed and a third bunt by Megan Lanier moved the runners to second and third with one out.

Kaylie Crosby's grounder to short scored Shae Crosby and brought dangerous No. 2 hitter Erica Hill to the plate - Hill hit a clutch three-run home run earlier in the season in a victory over Norwich Free Academy - but Hill popped to the pitcher on the first pitch.

Fitch then got the run back immediately in the bottom of the third on Taber's triple and Wolfgang's sacrifice fly and the Falcons added two in the sixth on a two-out, two-run single by Amar.

Taber struck out seven, including striking out the side in order in the second, and walked none.

"They hit the ball right away," East Lyme coach Judy Deeb said, crediting Fitch. "I'm not disappointed. I'm disappointed with the result, all of us are, but we gave our maximum effort. We just didn't make adjustments soon enough; we would drop our hands and just started to swing at balls out of the strike zone.

"But we were up today. We came ready to play."

Hill tripled in the sixth and Sarah Bond doubled in the seventh for East Lyme.

Meghan Welch took the loss, striking out three and walking none.

With the early-season matchup between the leaders in the ECC Large being televised by CPTV Sports, Cooper addressed her young team prior to the first pitch to urge her players to remain on an even keel.

"I gave them the whole spiel," Cooper said. "We're not here to be on camera. We're here to win," Cooper said. "... Caroline hadn't pitched the last three games. It was good for her to get back on the mound. She overpowered them in the beginning.

"We were ready to play. We had a good day."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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