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Stonington caps impressive week by clinching ECC Division III softball crown

Lebanon — Ann-Marie Houle, Stonington's head softball coach, learned a long time ago not to go overboard with giving this particular team pep talks.

"I psych them out," she said.

The Bears, instead, know that they can trust each other. Pitcher Cayla Beverly throws the ball over the plate; she struck out nine and walked none in Saturday's 11-2 victory over Lyman Memorial. The defense makes the plays, perhaps the best one in this game coming from center fielder Lola Worsdale.

And so one day after beating Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I opponent East Lyme 2-0, Stonington came back with another big win against Lyman. The Bears, with their seventh straight victory, captured the ECC Division III title, going to 12-3 overall, 7-0 in the division. Lyman is 12-4, 5-2.

"We trust Cayla, Cayla trusts the defense," Houle said. "I think we've learned that it's unrealistic to think it's all going to go your way. People are going to hit. That's what I tell the defense, to not freak out. ... This team, among other teams I've coached in the past, the defense knows it's OK. We talk a lot about that, keep your composure."

Stonington made it easy on itself and on Beverly against Lyman, scoring five runs in the first inning on three hits and three errors and adding three in the second for an 8-0 lead. Senior first baseman Carli LoPresto hit a pair of two-run homers, one in the second and one in the sixth, and finished with five RBI.

Maddy Stepski had two triples and Kelsea Anderson had three hits, including a triple.

"I was in a slump a little bit ago so I got my confidence today," LoPresto said. "My mom (Stonington softball alum Suzanne (Crowley) LoPresto) told me I've got to use my bottom half, so I listened to her and used it today. ... (Winning the title) feels good."

"It is tough (playing games back-to-back) but I mean we're kind of used to it by now with four games in a week," Beverly said. "I think we just sort of said bring the same energy (as Friday). ... We beat them last time (10-6, April 23), so we knew we could do it. I've got to give credit to Stepski, she's my catcher, she calls all my pitches, she does a great job."

At the start of the season, the Bears had a few question marks in their lineup. Their greatest asset, though: having nine seniors on the roster.

Stonington starts a pair of sophomores in the infield, with Cami Brown at shortstop and Bri Plew at second, but surrounded by upperclassmen, they no longer play like sophomores, Houle said.

"It's one of the greatest senior groups we've had with nine of them," the coach said. "They've helped the kids along. At the beginning of the year we started with major question marks of what the season was going to be. Once we got our footing, we kind of knew. Yesterday's game against East Lyme was a great win and that really showed how far we've come."

She called Beverly and LoPresto, Saturday's stars, "two of the quiestest people ever."

"Carli's quiet, but she's always focused, she's so hard-working," Houle said. "I'm happy for her. You root for kids like that. You want them to have a game where it matters and people notice. ... It's been a special season. I don't want it to end."

Kassidy LaTour had a single and a double and Lena-Maria Byers and Rylee Benway had two hits each for Lyman Memorial. The Bulldogs scored two runs with two outs in the fifth inning on consecutive hits by LaTour (double), Byers, Benway and Rayne Bobbi.

In Stonington's first win over Lyman this year, the Bears scored five runs in the sixth inning to take the lead after Lyman came out strong.

"They came out and did what we did to them the first time and we didn't respond the way they responded," Lyman coach Ron Vigue said. "They're a very good team. It took us a little bit to get going; we had to get through the order once. But they made some great plays on us (catches by Worsdale in center and Madi Allard in right) in the first inning."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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