Waterford beats rival Stonington behind Nott, Miller
Waterford — Madison Nott remembers being a freshman on the Waterford softball team not too long ago and how that felt. So integrating six of them into this season's lineup has been seamless as far as Nott is concerned.
"The freshmen are killing it. They're positive. They help the team out so much," Nott said. "Lily (Marelli, a freshman) had a big hit today. They gave us exactly what we needed."
That's the season's synopsis so far for the Lancers, who are a satisfying 7-3 overall following Thursday's 3-2 victory over Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II rival Stonington (the teams were co-champions in the division last year).
Thursday's story line, in particular, had a lot to do with Nott and fellow junior Rachel Miller, in addition to significant contributions from the freshmen.
Miller pitched a three-hitter, striking out nine — eight strikeouts looking — and Nott had the game-winning RBI double in the bottom of the seventh inning for the Lancers. Waterford had 11 hits against Stonington sophomore Elaina Previty, in only her second career start, but didn't string many together, trailing 2-0 until the fifth.
The win gives Waterford a 1-1 record in Division II, setting up a divisional matchup with first-place Griswold on May 6. Griswold edged Waterford 8-7 in eight innings on April 6, with Waterford coming back from a 7-1 deficit late to force the extra inning.
"We have hit the ball better than we displayed today," Waterford coach Andy Walker said following the victory over Stonington. "(Previty) did her job. We didn't do a very good job of making an adjustment.
"... If you would have told me before the season we were going to be 7-3 with the teams we're playing, I'd say, 'I'll take that.' I'm happy with where we are. But we're better than we're showing. We're not done yet."
Stonington (3-5, 2-2) took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on a leadoff double by Miranda Arruda, a two-out RBI single by Tori LoPresto and a pair of errors which allowed LoPresto to race home on the play.
But the Bears couldn't capitalize after that, hitting into a double play in the top of the fifth inning. And in the bottom of the fifth, Waterford began to time the offspeed offerings from Previty, scoring twice to tie the game at 2.
Anna Donahue, a freshman, led off with a double and Lili Stoddard singled to put runners on first and third. Freshman Emma Marelli hit a chop in front of the plate to load the bases. Lily Marelli singled to center on the first pitch to score one run, pulling within 2-1.
Stonington, playing the infield in, then got the next two outs at the plate on pinpoint throws from third baseman Maggie Constantine and LoPresto at shortstop to catcher Maddy Stepski. But Gina McKittrick drew a walk to force home Lily Marelli with the second run.
Stonington got out of the sixth with a running catch by Arruda in center field and Arruda made the first out of the seventh, as well. But Miller singled up the middle to start the Lancers' winning rally and McKittrick followed with a bloop single inches inside the right field line to get Miller into scoring position. Nott followed with the game-winner.
"I've been struggling this season," Nott, the cleanup hitter, said of her batting average. "My hands were slower. I wasn't seeing the ball. I have to drive it. But I feel like I'm back."
It was pointed out to Nott that the weather's about to get warmer, perhaps making for better hitting.
"We're about to get happier," she said with a smile.
Waterford and Stonington play again at Stonington on May 13, which will mark the teams' 10th annual Play4TheCure game. The tradition began between Stonington coach Ann-Marie Houle and then-Waterford coach Liz Sutman (Walker's sister), who both lost siblings to cancer.
The teams, for their collaborative effort displaying the utmost sportsmanship while competing year after year for the ECC title, will be honored Sunday by the Connecticut Sports Writers' Alliance. The Bears and Lancers will receive the inaugural Hal Levy High School Achievement Award at the 78th Gold Key Dinner at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington. Both Houle and Walker will attend.
"It's a huge honor," Houle said. "Sports are a funny thing. You can be competitive and still be able to always keep life in perspective. (The Play4TheCure) is always an emotional day. It was 45 years ago that my sister (5-year-old Kim) passed away. My mom always has tears in her eyes. She appreciates the game so much. It gives her an opportunity to know that her daughter hasn't been forgotten."