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This is how Norwich Free Academy softball coach Bryan Burdick explains his team:
"Our season was a season of we've been right there," Burdick said, noting three losses by two runs or fewer. "Instead of 15-5, we could have been 17-3, 18-2 and instead of being the sixth seed, we could have been the second seed.
"It's a matter of we didn't always produce when we needed to."
This week, the sixth-seeded Wildcats have produced plenty, enough to get them to the championship game of the Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament against No. 1 Fitch, scheduled for 6 tonight at Griswold High School.
NFA defeated last year's finalists, Waterford and East Lyme, in the first two rounds of the tournament, including a 6-0 semifinal victory over defending champ East Lyme. East Lyme defeated NFA twice during the regular season by a run each, coming from behind both times.
Burdick noted he had been 0-11 in his career against Waterford prior to the first-round win over the Lancers.
"Our defense has been solid," NFA senior catcher Emily DeVito said. "No one's making mental mistakes."
NFA (17-5) scored four runs in the fourth inning against East Lyme to break the game open, all with two outs, highlighted by a two-run single from freshman Beth Fleming.
Fitch, meanwhile, is 22-0 and ranked fourth in the New Haven Register Top 10 Poll. The Falcons got a four-hit performance from sophomore pitcher Caroline Taber, two sparkling defensive plays from junior shortstop Jackie Lewis and scored three runs in the fourth to beat No. 4 Griswold.
"It was a team effort. We played as a team," Lewis said.
"We're not just Caroline," Fitch coach Arielle Cooper said. "She's on the mound, she's in the center circle, but that's not all. … We'll be fired up (for the championship game), for sure."
- Vickie Fulkerson