MERIDEN — Softball was the ultimate star this spring, the lone sport in the veritable universe of spring sports to produce a state champion.
That was Southington, which raised its 18th state banner in defeating Norwich Free Academy 7-6 in the Class LL final at DeLuca Field.
That triumph got the Lady Knights named the Record-Journal’s Team of the Year at Sunday’s “Best of the Bunch” awards brunch and their skipper, Davina Hernandez, named Record-Journal Coach of the Year.
While we’re on the topic, we should mention Class LL championship game MVP Chrissy Marotto and fellow senior captain Abby Lamson were the co-Softball Players of the Year.
The Blue Knights (22-3) may have cornered the R-J softball awards market, but they did not monopolize all the success stories of 2019.
Cheshire (23-4) was once more a force. The Rams won the SCC Tournament championship in dramatic fashion — staving off defeat in the 7th, they beat North Haven in the 8th — and advanced to the Class LL semifinals.
Maloney (17-6) reached the Class L quarterfinals. Platt (9-11), Lyman Hall (11-11) and Wilcox Tech (16-7) also qualified for the postseason. Only Sheehan (2-18) fell short.
Yet the Titans, too, had an All-RJ player in Riley Wolcheski, who moved into the pitching circle for her senior season.
Wolcheski was one of three pitchers to make this year’s All-Record-Journal Team. Platt junior Caitlyn Hart and Cheshire sophomore Brianna Pearson were the others.
Keep an eye on Pearson. In her first spring as Cheshire’s full-time pitcher, Pearson made All-State and All-SCC First Team. She can pitch (1.40 ERA, 215 K) and she can hit (.350, 3 HR, 20 RBI).
Hart, named All-CCC South, was one of four repeat All-RJ players. The others? Southington’s Chrissy Marotto, Cheshire’s Mia Juodaitis and Lyman Hall’s Morgan Tuscano.
Those three girls just graduated and are going on to play collegiately. Let’s break it down:
■Marotto, a three-year starter at shortstop who had more than 100 career hits, is heading to Endicott. She batted .493 this season with 12 extra-base hits and 22 RBI. An All-State selection, Marotto led the Lady Knights with 34 hits and 30 runs scored.■Juodaitis, the Record-Journal’s Overall Female Athlete of the Year, is on her way to Providence College. The Cheshire shortstop was named SCC Player of the Year and the CHSCA’s state Positional Player of the Year after batting .410 and belting 12 home runs. Those 12 home runs are Cheshire’s new single-season record.■Tuscano, who made her third straight All-RJ Team, will play at Southern Connecticut State. The veteran catcher batted .333 in her final year, was named All-SCC First Team and was selected to play in the Senior All-Star Game.
Tuscano was joined on the All-RJ squad by Lyman Hall teammates Faith Barbieri and Sydney Nilsen.
The two seniors patrolled the Lyman Hall outfield. Barbieri, the left fielder, batted .357 and stole 14 bases. Nilsen, the center fielder, cranked a grand slam in her first at-bat this spring and went on to hit .466.
An All-SCC First-Team selection, Nilsen will continue playing at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Cheshire’s Lexie Hemstock will also be playing college ball in Massachusetts. She’s going to Western New England, where she’ll play field hockey and softball. She was All-SCC and All-RJ in both sports this year, signing off in softball with a .370 average, 21 RBI and two home runs.
Another Cheshire senior going out the door with All-SCC and All-RJ accolades was third baseman Brianna Floyd. A four-year varsity player, Floyd hit for a .354 average this spring with 19 RBI and eight doubles.
The youngest team in the mix is Maloney. All three of the East Side’s All-RJ players are underclassmen: freshman Madison LaValle, sophomore Milytza Perez and junior Lea White.
LaValle stepped right into the starting catcher’s position and batted .420 with 12 doubles, two triples and two home runs. She scored 28 runs, drove in 26 and was named All-CCC South.
Perez, also an All-CCC South selection, was effective as both a relief pitcher and hitter. She pitched in 18 games and, at the plate, batted .460 and drove in a team-high 33 runs. Perez also led the team with 40 hits — 15 for extra bases, including three homers.
White was Maloney’s top hitter. Going 39-for-88 out the No. 2 slot, White batted .513, scored 27 runs and drove in 22. She was named All-State as well as All-CCC South.
As impressive as White’s average was, it did not lead the area. That honor belonged to Southington’s Abby Lamson. The senior third baseman batted .600 and got on-base at a .681 clip.
Lamson was simply the hitter who could not be retired. She clocked three home runs, drove in 31 runs and was named All-State.
Lastly, every team needs a reliable cleanup hitter and we have ours: Southington senior Gabby Verderame-Malachowski. The senior batted .389 and drove in 15 runs and will move on to Endicott with Chrissy Marotto.
Verderame-Malachowski, a two-time All-CCC West selection, is the one who launched that pivotal three-run HR in the Class LL semifinals. It catapulted the Lady Knights past Trumbull and, ultimately, into the championship stratosphere.