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All-Decade softball team features Gatorade variety pack

There are other sports — football, perhaps — that inspire an inferiority complex for this corner of the world. As in: Our players and teams just don't always compare favorably against combatants from other parts of Connecticut.

Then there's softball. Heh, heh, heh. This is where the Eastern Connecticut Conference gets to create similar self-esteem issues for other parts of the state. A look at the All-Decade team that follows — with three different Gatorade Players of the Year — suggests that we own softball around here.

Here is the All-Decade team. Many thanks to five coaches and The Day's Vickie Fulkerson for their opinions and input.

Program of the Decade: Waterford. It's the Lancers by a gnat's eyelash over Fitch. Consider that each program had an undefeated season (Waterford in 2010, Fitch 2016) and each won a league-best three conference tournament titles. Waterford had a 3-2 edge in state championships, thus earning the distinction.

Player of the Decade: Caroline Taber, Fitch. A unanimous selection. Impressive, considering that there are two other Gatorade Players of the Year (Brianna Turgeon and Kelli Connors) on the menu. Taber is a four-time All-Area pick, three-time Day Player of the Year, three-time Class L all-stater and twice the Gatorade honoree. Taber pitched Fitch to a pair of state titles and three championship game appearances. She was named a regional All-American as a senior and went on to play at Princeton.

Coach of the Decade: Liz Sutman, Waterford. A unanimous selection. Also impressive, given that Fitch's Arielle Cooper went 74-8 and won two state championships in three seasons. Cooper, a member of the five-coach panel involved in picking this all-decade team, called Sutman, "a role model." Sutman went was 127-26 in six seasons (2010-15) with two state titles (2010, 2013), three ECC tournament titles (2010, 2011, 2012) and a team in 2010 that allowed seven runs all season.

Individual Team of the Decade: Fitch, 2016. The Falcons went undefeated and won their second title in three years at the time, finishing as the unanimous No. 1 team in the state. They beat Masuk in the finals, 2-0, in 1 hour, 13 minutes. In the semifinals, Taber pitched a one-hitter. Taber was also named Gatorade Player of the Year.

Game of the Decade: April 21, 2012. Stonington pitcher Andrea Chiaradio not only pitched a perfect game against Norwich Free Academy but struck out all 21 batters she faced. The Bears won 3-0. "It was unbelievable to watch," Stonington coach Ann-Marie Houle said. "I don't think she understands the magnitude. We're so sarcastic as a coaching staff, I had to say, 'Andrea, for real, this is a big deal. I've never been prouder.' I've never seen her pitch so confidently." Chiaradio later earned national acclaim in Sports Illustrated's Faces In The Crowd.

All-Decade team joining Taber:

Kelli Connors, Waterford. One of the best pitchers in ECC history. Connors was named The Day's 2011 Player of the Year and the state's 2012 Gatorade Player of the Year. Connors finished her career with a 69-5 record, leading the Lancers to a pair of state championships. She played in college at Florida Southern.

Alyssa Hancock, Waterford. Hancock hit .460 with five home runs, 28 RBI, 44 runs scored and 29 stolen bases during her senior year, after which she earned The Day's Player of the Year award. She also had seven triples, six doubles, a slugging percentage of .862 and an on-base percentage of .542. She had 121 career hits. She was named to the all-state team that year and made The Day's All-Area team three times.

Mattie Brett, Waterford: Sutman called Brett, a second baseman, 'the glue" to the 2010 title team that allowed seven runs all season. Brett, a Class L all-state pick, hit .421 with 40 hits, 19 for extra bases, scored 33 runs and drove in 24. She played in four straight state title games and finished her college career at Eastern Connecticut State University.

Brianna Turgeon, Fitch. A transcendent hitter. Turgeon was a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year and the 2011 Connecticut High School Coaches' Association Player of the Year. As a senior, she hit .464 with nine doubles, four triples and five home runs to go with 30 runs scored, 22 RBI, 14 stolen bases and a slugging percentage of .955. She was also named MVP of the Class LL state championship game as a sophomore. She played at Division I Fordham.

Taylor Wolfgang, Fitch. She was named the Connecticut High School Coaches' Association Position Player of the Year and The Day's Player of the Year in 2017 after hitting .570 with eight homers and 42 RBI. Wolfgang picked off seven runners as a catcher. Earlier in her career, she was named MVP of the 2014 state championship game as a freshman and homered in the 2016 Class L semifinal victory over Torrington. She plays at Division I Bucknell.

Jackie Lewis, Fitch: Lewis was a huge part of Fitch's mid-decade championship run, named to the Class L All-State team twice. An infielder, Lewis hit nearly .600 as a senior, despite needing emergency surgery late in the year. "It's her charisma and her grit," Taber said of her. "When she's down, she's not out. It's unbelievable. She has just such an amazing presence."

Nina Wojtkiewicz, Griswold. Among the greatest players in Griswold history. She became the fourth player in school history to join the 100-hit club (120) and the second to score more than 100 runs (101). She was a two-time member of The Day's All-Area team and a 2011 All-State pick. A four-year starter at catcher, Wojtkiewicz hit .494 her senior season with 41 hits, 39 runs scored, 18 RBI and a program record 32 stolen bases.

Beth Fleming, NFA: Fleming, among NFA's greatest pitchers, was named to the Class LL All-State team twice, competing in the state's largest division. Fleming, who pitched at Ithaca College, left NFA as its record holder for strikeouts in a single season and career strikeouts.

Hailee Schrader, NFA: Schrader, who has the most career hits in NFA history, was named to the Class LL all-state team four times. Schrader was part of a group that won the ECC tournament in her senior year and made the Class LL championship game. Schrader plays college softball at Castleton.

Theresa Kane, Stonington: Kane, who played at Georgetown, was a three-time All-ECC and two-time Class M all-state player. She finished her career with a .498 average and is among Stonington's best pitchers in program history. She pitched a no-hitter in a state tournament game for the Bears.

Also considered were: Madison Horner (East Lyme), Kaylie Crosby (East Lyme), Bailey Comeau (NFA), Emily Devito (NFA), Ali Blanchette (NFA), Shea Gendron (NFA), Shay Sauvageau (Griswold), Kirsten Drobiak (Griswold), Jayden Delaporta (Fitch), Cassie Woods (Fitch), Raven Houck (Wheeler), Claire Hurley (Waterford), Sara Buscetto (Waterford), Ciana Chiappone (Waterford), Elaina Sullivan (Waterford), Megan Spellman (Waterford), Mallory Kane (Stonington), Abby Flakus (Stonington) and Miranda Arruda (Stonington).

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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