MERIDEN – The day-long battle for supremacy in the 17th annual Tri-Town Softball Tournament run by the Meriden Amateur Softball Association was one of attrition.
Representatives from Meriden, Southington and Wallingford dug deep in their reserves for personnel, sunscreen and ibuprofen, and Grace’s Diner of Southington came up with the best recipe for success.
Consecutive singles by tourney MVP Liz Collins, Stephanie Kowalec and Kelly Stuper led to three third-inning runs that carried Grace’s to a 5-4 win to prevent Fosdick of Wallingford from winning its second straight crown at Benjamin Nessing Memorial Park.
Grace’s, which also defeated Fosdick 15-10 in the tournament’s round-robin preliminary, withstood an injury to second baseman Laura Barnard and the early departure of two other starters. Manager Maggie Moniz had to call on Lindsay Lempicki, a star in last year’s tournament who had come in from Boston to root the team on, to play first base in the final.
Nevertheless, Grace’s pitcher Donna Borzillo allotted Fosdick just one tally over the final six frames of the final to bring home the hardware.
“It feels awesome. I don’t think it could feel much better,” said Moniz, who went 6-for-10 and drove in three runs on the day. “The competition was really good. Wallingford’s a fantastic team and I’m happy we were able to hold on.”
Collins also went 6-for-10, drove in three runs, scored four and turned in a strong defensive performance behind the plate. She went 2-for-3 in the final.
Moniz endorsed the MASA Board of Directors’ choice for individual recognition.
“[Collins] anchors the team,” Moniz said. “She’s a good catcher and she motivates everyone. It was a team win. Everyone made errors but we picked up each other. We win and lose as a team.”
Fosdick (15-6) took a 3-0 lead in the first inning.
Katie Gill and 2012 MVP Linda Brockett started the rally with singles. Chris Gavin followed with a one out hit and Katie McClelland, the tourney’s leading hitter (8-for-13, .615, 5 RBI), socked a two-run single. Gavin scored on an error.
An RBI single by Julie Sopchak, the only player to hit a homer, started Grace’s (20-3) on the comeback trail in the home half. An error and a triple down the left field line by Lempicki drew the Southington ladies within a run, setting the stage for the game-winning rally in the third.
Meriden’s champion, North Italian Home Club/Connecticut Presort, never fully recovered from a disappointing 11-10 loss to Fosdick in the opener.
A four-run uprising in the fifth inning thanks to run-scoring doubles by Cayla French and Danielle Greene gave NIHC a 10-4 lead, but the Wallingford women scored twice in the fifth, twice in the sixth and five times in the bottom of the seventh.
A walk-off single by Brandy Dionne consummated the comeback.
NIHC rallied to beat Grace’s 12-9, but was eliminated by Fosdick 5-2 as the bats went silent and energy ebbed. Kate Dubois (6 RBI) and Amy Jensen (5-for-11, 4 runs) were Meriden’s offensive leaders.
Each team won once in the round-robin portion. The directors had to go to the second tiebreaker – runs scored – to determine which team would get a rest while the others clashed in an elimination game. Grace’s and NIHC were tied in run differential, but the Southington crew had a 24-22 edge in runs.
“In some ways it was an advantage,” Moniz said. “We played two back-to-back and if we played a third we would have had to play the fourth. If we had to play four in a row, we probably would have been dead on the field because I ran out of subs.
“[Fosdick] didn’t seem to be that slow. Both teams were hitting in spots and making plays.”
NIHC manager Jenn Hines, who said her team failed to bring its ‘A’ game, drove in three runs and Dubois four in the win over Grace’s. She also stabbed a line drive cutting Grace’s rally short in the sixth. Jensen made a diving catch of a line drive to open the frame, which easily could have reversed the verdict.
NIHC turned three double plays in the 5-2 loss to Fosdick.
The women’s tournament was the only show in town for the 17th annual Tri-Town. A men’s tournament took place during the first 16 Tri-Town events, but this year neither Southington nor Wallingford fielded a team to challenge Meriden’s champion, the Davidson Company Dirt Dogs.
The Dirt Dogs practiced on the adjacent field in preparation for their trip to the ASA Nationals in Columbus, Ohio next weekend.
MASA officials are considering changes to assure that the suburban defections don’t happen again.
A nice crowd pitched tents and picnicked throughout the day, which ran from 10 a.m. until almost 4:30.