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    Friday, March 01, 2024

    Stonington rallies in 7th to beat Lyman in ECC D-II softball final

    Griswold — The player that Stonington coach Ann-Marie Houle calls her team’s anchor sobbed her way through the postgame Thursday afternoon.

    Bears catcher Kelsea Anderson was named Most Outstanding Player of the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II softball championship after No. 2 Stonington scored six runs in the top of the seventh inning to beat No. 1 Lyman Memorial 11-10 at Griswold High School.

    Anderson, had three hits, including a double to the left-center field gap to lead off the seventh. She attributed many of her emotions in the moment to the death of longtime Stonington assistant coach Roger Gwaltney two days prior to the start of the season.

    It was Stonington’s second straight Division II title.

    “I think this year it meant even more because I think he was in all of our hearts. I know he’s looking down on us,” said Anderson, a senior.

    “He was always something special in my life. He always had my back through everything. He never let me make any excuses. Every single time I came off an at-bat, he was always there to give me his iconic fist bump. To this day, I can feel him looking down on me.”

    Lyman (18-4) scored five runs in the first inning, getting doubles from Kassidy LaTour, Rylee Benway and Kelsey Dunnack along with two Stonington errors to put the Bulldogs on top early at 5-1.

    Lena-Maria Byers and Dunnack had three hits each and Lyman chipped away, adding to its run total until it led 10-5 headed to the top of the seventh.

    In the seventh, Stonington scored six runs on five hits and one Lyman error, with its first four batters reaching base. Anderson doubled, freshman Ari Scavello walked and Melanie Verbridge singled to left to score a run.

    Sophia Dutra walked to load the bases before Maggie Thomas grounded to shortstop for the first out of the inning, driving in the Bears’ second run of the inning and making it 10-7.

    With two outs, leadoff hitter Cami Brown doubled in a pair of runs to pull Stonington (17-5) within 10-9. Madi Allard then launched a ball to the center field fence for a triple to score Brown with the tying run. Bri Plew reached on an error as the eventual winning run scored.

    Lyman loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh on a single by Byers, an error and an intentional walk to Natani Spears. Stonington pitcher Lindsey Houle got a ground ball to short for the game’s final out, with the shortstop Brown flipping to Scavello at third for the force.

    “Listen, you just gotta keep going, right?” Ann-Marie Houle said of Stonington’s comeback. “It’s up and down. We’re young but I’m so proud of them. They don’t stop. They don’t let what statistically should happen ... statistically, you shouldn’t win that.

    “They don’t care. They never have. The naiveness of them helps us.”

    Houle said that the coaching staff called on Anderson to catch this season, moving her from third base, with Lindsey Houle, an inexperienced sophomore, starting on the mound and reaping the benefit of Anderson’s guidance.

    “That’s not something she loves,” Ann-Marie Houle said of Anderson’s move behind the plate. “On the first day of practice, she said, ‘I’ll do what you need me to do’ and I said Uncle Rog (the team’s nickname for Gwaltney) would be proud of you.

    “I never lost sight of that and in a game like this she came up huge. ... What I said to her after the game was that everything Roger Gwaltney was about was selflessness. She leads us in so many things that aren’t necessarily seen.”

    v.fulkerson@theday.com

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