Salem/Montville wins District 10 LL softball (10-12) title
Waterford — The main component of Salem/Montville's victory Thursday night was resilience.
Twice on the cusp of winning the District 10 Little League softball tournament championship (ages 10-12), Salem/Montville watched as defending champion Waterford came back dramatically to tie it. But Salem/Montville never relented, finally coming through with four runs in the top of the eighth for a 7-4 victory.
"I told these girls the first practice we ever had, we're going to win the whole thing," said Salem/Montville coach Jay Lesniewski, whose team will go on to play in the Connecticut Section 3 tournament beginning next Thursday at Waterford. "They have a 'win it' philosophy, a 'next girl up' philosophy. That's why we're standing here undefeated."
"Everyone has so much confidence," catcher Mia Lloyd said. "I don't think anybody ever gave up ever."
Salem/Montville led 2-0 headed to the bottom of the fifth inning, scoring twice on wild pitches, when Waterford leadoff hitter Gianna Duzant reached on a dropped third strike and Gabrielle Fontaine followed by scorching a two-run home run off the fence in right field, tying the score at 2-2.
The teams also traded runs in the seventh, Salem/Montville taking a 3-2 lead in the top of the inning on an RBI single by Abby Daniewicz before Waterford came through in the clutch once again to make it 3-3 on an RBI single by Mia Majeski.
Starting the eighth, each team was afforded a runner at second base to start the inning.
That placed Lloyd at second to begin the top of the decisive inning for Salem/Montville. Lauren Gault reached on an infield single that sent Lloyd to third and Lloyd raced home on a wild pitch at the same time as Summer Stefanelli walked and Gault took third. Stefanelli went to second on defensive indifference to give the team runners on second and third.
With one out, Alexa Pesarik laid down a perfect bunt to score Gault, with Stefanelli advancing to third. Jainna Lesniewski's infield single scored Stefanelli and Lesniewski later scored on an error to cap the scoring, forging a 7-3 lead.
Daniewicz, Salem/Montville's ace pitcher, retired the side in order in the bottom of the eighth, although Waterford pushed across Brooklyn Hume — who started the inning on second base — for the final margin. Daniewicz closed out the game by getting a ground ball, a sacrifice fly to right field by Antonia Stefano and a strikeout.
Daniewicz and Lloyd, who have played all-stars with each other since 2019 and also play travel softball together for the Stealth, credited each other for helping the team keep its nerves in check and its confidence high even as Waterford repeatedly came up with a way to tie the score.
Waterford had runners in scoring position, threatening to score the winning run, in the bottom of the sixth and the bottom of the seventh, with Daniewicz battling her way out of both jams. Daniewicz struck out 11 and got a solid defensive effort behind her, with an inning-ending double play in the third sparked by shortstop Jainna Lesniewski, and yet another staunch effort from Lloyd behind the plate.
"Mia really helps me with it," Daniewicz said of her ability to not get flustered with the game on the line. "She helps me get back in it. She always knows what to say."
Daniewicz is also unafraid to throw any pitch in Lloyd's direction.
"She always gets it," Daniewicz said. "She will always get it no matter what. She shocks me."
Salem/Montville defeated Waterford twice previously in the tournament, 16-0 in a preliminary-round game last Friday, with Daniewicz allowing no hits, and 6-4 in the winners' bracket final Tuesday behind Daniewicz's 13-strikeout performance.
Fontaine had three hits for Waterford, including the two-run homer in the fifth. She also pitched, striking out 17 batters and allowing just one hit, a bunt single by Sofia Gibson in the first inning, until the seventh. Fontaine allowed five hits in all, two to Jainna Lesniewski.
Waterford will play the District 9 champion in the first game of the Section 3 tournament beginning at 7 p.m. July 7. The District 7 champion will also play in the three-team sectional.