Fitch to play surprising NFA in ECC softball final

Fitch's Rylee Macmillan (4) beats the throw to Griswold catcher Kasey Ayer and scores the game's first run in the fourth inning of Thursday night's ECC softball tournament semifinal game. The top-seeded and unbeaten Falcons beat the Wolverines 3-0 and will play NFA for the championship on Saturday at Griswold.

Griswold - Don't ask Jackie Lewis for too many details.

"It was such an in-the-heat-of-the-moment kind of thing. I don't know how it happened," Lewis said of perhaps the biggest play of the day, precipitated by her arm.

Top-seeded Fitch High School, behind two potentially game-changing plays by Lewis, the Falcons' junior shortstop, beat No. 4 Griswold 3-0 in the semifinals of the Eastern Connecticut Conference softball tournament Thursday at Griswold High School.

Meanwhile, the team that will meet Fitch in the finals is No. 6 Norwich Free Academy, which defeated defending champion East Lyme 6-0 in the first semifinal of the day.

It's the first ECC final for NFA since 2007, scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday at Griswold.

"It's the first time I've been in a championship game with girls I've been playing with for so long," NFA senior Emily DeVito said. "It definitely shows we're tough mentally and physically. … It's a really big deal."

Fitch, 22-0 and ranked fourth in the New Haven Register Top 10 Poll, was close to seeing Griswold score first on a fourth-inning double down the left field line by Shyla Krick.

With Wolverines baserunner Elizabeth Olszewski being waved around from third base, however, Fitch left fielder Cassie Woods dug the ball out and hustled it in to Lewis, who made the relay throw home to catcher Taylor Wolfgang. Wolfgang tagged Olszewski for the third out.

With Fitch gaining momentum, Lewis then led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a single and Jo Hobert singled behind her. Two outs later, Wolfgang delivered an RBI single to left field for the game's first run. Jayden Delaporta scored on a wild pitch to make it 2-0 and Olivia Knotts singled up the middle to score Wolfgang for a 3-0 lead.

Sophomore pitcher Caroline Taber allowed four hits, striking out four and walking one for the victory.

Taber hadn't allowed a hit yet in the third inning when Lewis went airborne up the middle to rob Kirsten Drobiak of a hit. Lewis then threw to Delaporta at first base to double off a Griswold runner. Olszewski had the first hit off Taber, a two-out infield single in the fourth, followed by Krick's double.

Fitch had only five hits off Griswold's Drobiak.

"It's crazy. It's kind of unreal," Lewis said of the season-long progression of the Falcons, who don't have a senior. "It's such a young team with so much potential. … (When they almost scored), we all had mini-heart attacks. All of us knew it was time to hit."

"The games aren't going to get any easier. Every game's going to be a fight," Fitch coach Arielle Cooper said. "We have to get used to that."

In the first game, NFA (17-5) led 2-0 over No. 2 East Lyme when the Wildcats struck for four runs in the fourth inning.

With two outs and a runner on, No. 9 hitter Shaina Beatrice chopped a single up the middle. East Lyme (17-5) pitched around DeVito, the leadoff hitter, to load the bases. That was followed by a two-run single by freshman Beth Fleming, an RBI single that Melissa Castillo dunked into right field and another RBI single by winning pitcher Megan Weir.

East Lyme finished with five hits, two from Erica Hill, against the tandem of Kaitlyn Kelly and Weir in relief and stranded seven baserunners.

East Lyme defeated NFA twice during the regular season, coming from behind both times to win 4-3 and 6-5.

"They were ready to play," East Lyme coach Judy Deeb said. "We had beaten them twice by a run apiece and we didn't play our best today."

"That was them," NFA coach Bryan Burdick said of his team's mentality coming into the tournament. "This is what they felt they should do. 'We're going to win these games' because they felt they shouldn't have lost those other games. It's just been great to watch them play like this."


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