Top-seeded Fitch plays NFA for ECC softball title tonight

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


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