Coginchaug wins district softball title in dramatic fashion

Coginchaug wins district softball title in dramatic fashion

Record-Journal
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The champs, from left, Grace Hughes-Conway, Alex Fitzpatrick, Audrey Labasi, Jackie Kelly, Ava Marenna, Amanda Case, Erin Donlan, Amalia DeMartino, Rhea Patel, Allison Strang, Caroline Smith, Emma Ufferfilge. Coaches, from left, Roger Conway, John Kelly, Steve DeMartino (manager).

Amalia DeMartino pitched eight shutout innings, and was backed by a tremendous defensive effort as Coginchaug earned a 1-0 extra-inning walkoff victory over Middletown/Killingworth in the decisive third game of the District 9 Little League softball championship.

Coginchaug entered the tournament expecting to compete to reach the championship round, but the general sentiment was that the Middletown/Killingworth combined team, and its ace pitcher Alexa Boone, would be too much for anyone to handle.

For much of the tournament that seemed to be the case.

Coginchaug rolled over East Hampton and Chester/Deep River in pool play by scores of 22-0 and 17-0, and also successfully defeated respectable opponents Old Saybrook, 7-1, and Cromwell, 5-3.

Meanwhile, Middletown/Killingworth tore through the pool play rounds, outscoring opponents 42-1, including a 10-0 rout of Coginchaug in 5 innings.

With the win over Cromwell in its final pool game, Coginchaug would advance to take on Middletown/Killingworth in the best-of-3 final series.

Game 1 went about as planned for Middletown/Killingworth, as it prevailed 6-1. Erin Donlan got the start for Coginchaug, and despite pitching well, allowed six runs, while her team was held to a single base hit, a bunt single from Donlan.

Coginchaug kept its championship hopes alive with a 6-4 victory in Game 2. Because of pitch inning rules, Middletown/Killingworth rested Boone, but Coginchaug struggled early against starter Nicole Saraceno, falling behind 2-0.

Coginchaug battled back in the fourth, taking advantage of four straight walks by Saraceno, and a three-run triple by Donlan to deep left field.

Leading 5-2 in the fifth, Amanda Case hit a liner to right field to score DeMartino, who had walked, to bring the score to 6-2.

That proved more than enough cushion for DeMartino, who pitched a very solid game, striking out 13 and allowing just one earned run.

Game 3 took place the following night, and it was DeMartino versus Boone in a rematch of the pool play game that went in favor of Middletown/Killingworth.

DeMartino opened the game with strikeouts of Middletown/Killingworth’s powerful top three of Tessa Wills, Boone and Ella McGlynn, setting a good tone for the locals. But Coginchaug struggled to reach base on Boone. DeMartino reached in the fourth, as she was hit in the left hand by a pitch, and Alex Fitzpatrick laid down a crafty bunt single, but that was all Coginchaug could muster off of Boone through the first five innings.

Middletown/Killingworth fared no better at the plate, picking up its first hit off DeMartino, a single to center field by Boone, in the top of the sixth. However, she was promptly erased by the catcher, Donlan, while trying to steal third.

In the bottom of the sixth, Allison Strang hit a one-out double off of Boone for Coginchaug’s second hit, but was left stranded, sending the game to extra innings.

Middletown picked up solid singles off of DeMartino in the seventh, but, again, Donlan put out the fire, as she threw out both girls attempting to steal second, including an acrobatic high helmet tag by shortstop Ava Marenna to secure the third out. A shoestring catch by Rhea Patel in left field also played no small part in keeping the game scoreless.

There were more defensive heroics for Coginchaug in the top of the eighth, as first baseman Fitzpatrick brilliantly scooped a low throw by Grace Hughes-Conway on a leadoff bunt to third for the first out.

DeMartino allowed a single to Khamari Johnson but that was sandwiched between two strikeouts to keep the game scoreless entering the bottom of the eighth.

There, battling back from a 1-2 count, Patel managed a one-out walk to get on base. Audrey Labasi, inserted as a pinch runner, then stole second – the first attempt at a steal by Coginchaug all afternoon. The throw by the catcher, McGlynn, went off the glove of the shortstop and was enough to get Labasi to third on the error.

Fitzpatrick, batting with two strikes, laid down another bunt to reach, as Boone had to hold the speedy Labasi, representing the winning run, at third.

Strang then hit a first-pitch ground ball to second base, and the throw home was a little high, and off just enough for Labasi to slide in under the tag for the win.

This was the 29th district softball title for Coginchaug, and the first 11-12 year title since 2007.

Coginchaug advanced to face Waterford and East Hartford in the Connecticut Section 3 tournament.

— Submitted by Scott Strang


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