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    Wednesday, February 21, 2024

    Waterford, thanks to no-hitter by Burrows, reaches Class L softball final

    West Haven — The final Avon batter of the game tried to bunt for a base hit and popped it up to Maddie Burrows, who squeezed it for the third out.

    That put the final touches on a no-hitter for Burrows, the Waterford High School senior, in the Class L state tournament semifinals Monday night against sixth-seeded Avon. No. 7 Waterford finished with a jubilant 8-0 victory to reach the championship game against top-seeded Masuk on either Friday or Saturday at a site and time to be announced.

    "Defensively, Maddie Burrows was just lights out," Waterford coach Andy Walker said of his ace, headed next year to Division I Villanova. "She is such a competitor. She's been competing all year, four years now. She is just a phenomenal player in all aspects of the game.

    "It was an opportunity for people to see how good she is in the circle tonight. I'm happy she had that great outing in front of the lights, camera and action (assembled state media) here tonight."

    Burrows struck out nine, walked two and hit two, not allowing a baserunner until the fifth inning. She was facing a formidable opponent in fellow Division I recruit Jackie Pengel, headed for Syracuse, who struck out 16 in a quarterfinal victory last week over Fitch. Pengel had 12 strikeouts against Waterford (21-4), including Burrows to open the game.

    Waterford, though, led 4-0 when it broke things open with four runs in the seventh inning. With two outs, Emma Marelli hit a popup to center field that was misplayed, one of seven Avon errors. Anna Donahue tripled to left and Anna Dziecinny, hitting cleanup, homered to center. Lily Marelli singled to left and Lexi Collins followed with a single to right that went for an error to score Marelli with the final run.

    "We're nine batters deep," Burrows said. "I have faith in all my fellow teammates that we can hit the ball."

    Burrows was drilled with a Pengel pitch in the left shoulder blade during her at-bat to lead off the sixth. Walker pinch ran for her, leaving some question as to whether she would be able to finish the game.

    As it turns out, Burrows didn't run due to a jammed left thumb. She came back out for the sixth, stranding an Avon runner on third, then retired the Falcons in order in the seventh, striking out the first two hitters and getting the popped up bunt from the third.

    "I was throwing my screwball today. I think that's one of my best pitches," Burrows said. "It comes in low and then it will go inside or it will go up and inside. That kind of made a big impact today. ... On the bus ride, I sit in complete silence. At the beginning, I sing, and then at the end I just sit there."

    Did she know it was a no-hitter?

    "I don't like to focus on it," she said.

    Waterford got the first baserunners of the game for either team in the top of the fourth. After a swinging strike one, Burrows laid down a bunt for a base hit. Emma Marelli followed with a sacrifice bunt but Burrows was thrown out trying to go from first to third on the play.

    Donahue reached when a popup to second base fell untouched for an error and Dziecinny singled up the middle off Pengel. The ball was misplayed by the center fielder, allowing Donahue to score all the way from first base for a 1-0 lead.

    The Lancers added a run in the third fifth to make it 2-0, with No. 7 hitter Grace Muti reaching on an error. Pinch runner Emilia Podeszwa took second on a ball that bounced away from Avon catcher Amanda Hasler, but Hasler's throw down to the base got past everyone and rolled to the fence.

    Podeszwa, however, missed third base and went back to touch it, appearing she would be forced to stay there, but the relay throw from the outfield was misplayed, allowing Podeszwa to score.

    Avon's Kayla Jette walked to start the bottom of the fifth, the Falcons' first baserunner against Burrows. Liz Jerger sacrificed Jette to second, but Waterford catcher Emma Marelli threw Jette out at third base when she tried to advance on a bouncer in the dirt.

    The Lancers scored twice in the sixth to make it 4-0. Burrows led off and was drilled with the first pitch from Pengel, leaving in favor of pinch runner Bella Correa. Emma Marelli sacrificed Correa to second, followed by back-to-back doubles from Donahue and Dziecinny.

    Avon finished the season 19-6.

    Masuk defeated No. 21 Bristol Eastern 3-0 in the first semifinal of the day.

    Said Burrows, who won a state championship as a freshman at Waterford and will now end her career in a title game, as well: "I think on Thursday I'm going to be like, oh, my God, this is really happening."


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