No. 1 Masuk beats Waterford 4-0 to win Class L softball championship
Stratford — Emma Marelli, one of Waterford's six seniors, left her catcher's gear on long after the game ended Saturday night at Frank DeLuca Hall of Fame Field.
She wore it through the trophy presentation, as the Lancers accepted the runner-up trophy following a 4-0 loss to top-seeded Masuk in the Class L state tournament softball championship game. She had it on through the postgame team huddle in left field and for the duration of an interview session with the media.
"I don't want to take it off," Marelli said.
"Under her robe at graduation," fellow senior Maddie Burrows said, a suggestion as to how long Marelli might be wearing her chest protector and shin guards.
"If it wasn't for this team, I don't think I would be where I was in life," Marelli said. "They've just changed my whole life. They made me love the game of softball."
Masuk (26-1) got a leadoff home run from Natalie Lieto in the first inning and took it from there, dispatching No. 7 Waterford (22-5). It was the fourth straight state title for Masuk, two before COVID struck and two after, as senior pitcher Kat Gallant — the Gatorade Connecticut Softball Player of the Year — threw a four-hitter with eight strikeouts and two walks and added a two-run single in the fifth inning to pad the Panthers' lead.
Waterford, which won the Class M championship in 2019, was trying to add a second title to the legacy of these seniors.
Burrows pitched a three-hitter for Waterford, striking out six, walking three and hitting a batter, but the Lancers couldn't back her with offense, stranding six runners.
"I just don't think we were producing," Marelli said. "They did hit and that was the one thing we couldn't do."
Masuk led 1-0 on Lieto's homer, then made it 2-0 in the second when Julia Bacoulis led off with a walk and Emma West-Testo followed with a bunt single that had enough pace on it to get past the pitcher's mound. Bacoulis was able to advance to third on the play and Sarah Falcone's ground ball to second base brought her around to score.
The score remained 2-0 until the bottom of the fifth when Masuk loaded the bases with one out. Burrows got Izzy Viglione to pop up to shortstop Anna Dziecinny for the second out but Gallant blooped a single over third base to score two runs, accounting for the final margin.
Waterford, meanwhile, left two runners on in the third and two in the seventh, unable to deliver a key hit and with Masuk making several nice plays in the outfield, including running catches by Falcone in left and Lieto in center. Lexi Collins had two hits for the Lancers and Emma Marelli and Lily Marelli each had one.
Burrows, Emma Marelli, Lily Marelli, Abby Maynard, Anna Donahue and Tori Kiefer, who missed the season due to injury, will graduate this season after having first played together during Little League.
"I would say sportsmanship," Burrows said, asked what she would want her legacy to be at Waterford. "Being good people, there's nothing better than that."
Burrows has spoken before of her teammates making her laugh through adversity, such as the time she game up two home runs in one inning this season against Southington — "I hope (next year), they can can laugh if they give up home runs," she said.
"They competed every single day," Waterford coach Andy Walker said of the senior class. "They were able to elevate our program and put us back as a top team in the state. That's what they've given us. They've given so much to the program. That's the most difficult thing for them is to see each other leave."
Walker said the Lancers expected to win Saturday, not to "roll over for Masuk," but that Waterford didn't have its best day at the plate.
"You can look back on so many things," Walker said. "I'm sure I'll be doing that for the rest of the week."