Waterford edges Seymour 6-5 to win Class M softball title
West Haven — Andy Walker gave his Waterford softball team a word of the day for Saturday’s CIAC Class M championship game — resiliency.
Resiliency. It’s easy to preach that when things are going well. Not so much when a team has fallen into a shame spiral, and were the Lancers ever headed that way in the fourth inning. They gave up four unearned runs on three errors to allow Seymour to tie the game, 5-5.
“We knew on a big stage like this that an error or two is going to happen,” Walker said. “It’s just a matter of how you bounce back from that.”
Waterford’s Gina McKittrick produced a two-out, go-ahead RBI single in the bottom of that inning.
Lancers reliever Maddie Burrows came in to pitch three innings of scoreless relief and snared a screaming line drive with one out and a runner at second in the top of the seventh to start a game-end double play.
Waterford 6, Seymour 5.
Survive and thrive.
“It was harrowing, for sure, but we got it done,” Walker said.
Waterford senior and tournament MVP Lili Stoddard said, “It’s just a crazy feeling. You have no words to describe anything that just happened today.”
It was the fifth state title for the third-seeded Lancers (22-4) and their fourth since 2009. They won their last three titles when they were guided by Liz Sutman, the younger sister of Andy Walker.
“There’s a lot of talent on our team, and especially such a young team,” said Stoddard, just one of two senior starters. “I don’t think a lot of people expected (a state title) out of us, especially after losing in the ECCs. I think it just set the fire under our rear ends to do a heck of a lot better in the state tournament.”
Waterford also got a measure of revenge on the eighth-seeded Wildcats (22-6). They thrashed the Lancers 10-1 on April 4.
Waterford took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when leadoff hitter Ciana Chiappone scored on two throwing errors in one at-bat. McKittrick reached on an error with one out and Madison Nott single.
Stoddard followed by giving the Lancers a reason to believe by maiming a 2-2 pitch for a three-run home run with two outs.
“Two strikes, I closed my eyes and said, ‘wow — what would it be like if I just hit this over the fence right now?’,” Stoddard said. “I’m going to be honest, I really didn’t think it went over, but I saw a couple of guys out there (behind the outfield fence) and they went and got the ball, and I thought, ‘wow, that really just happened.’”
Walker said, “For us to get out on them like that, it just confirmed the belief that we had in them and the confidence that they should have in themselves.”
McKittrick’s one-out sacrifice fly in the second inning scored Emma Marelli and pushed the Waterford lead to 5-1.
The Lancers went all cattywampus in the fourth inning. Seymour scoring three times with two outs. Morgan Teodosio had an RBI single during the rally and scored the tying run on an error.
“After they came back, I knew in my mind it’s a 0-0 game,” Stoddard said. “We know what we can do. Any player on the bench can come up and they can do their job.”
Pinch-hitter Milena Walker walked with one out in the Wateford fourth and Marelli re-entered the game to run. Miller singled Marelli to second with two outs. McKittrick followed with her go-ahead single.
“I didn’t really have any (nerves),” a non-plussed McKittrick said. “When I got to bat, I just wanted to take it back up the middle.”
Burrows, a freshman, came on in relief in the fifth and retired eight of 10 batters she faced, striking out two. The only hit Burrows gave up was a one-out double to Molly Adamo in the top of the seventh.
Jacey Cosciello (2-for-3, two runs) followed and connected with what sounded like a surefire game-tying hit coming off her bat. Burrows caught it for the second out and threw to classmate Marelli for the double play at second base.
“A laser beam,” Walker said. “It was a great way to finish the game because I don’t think I could’ve taken any more at bats. I think that was enough for me today.”