MERIDEN -- While the 17th annual Tri-Town Softball Tournament on the men’s side has hit the skids, the women will play on with virtually the same competitive cast slated to trade swings today beginning at 10 a.m. at Benjamin Nessing Memorial Park.
The North Italian Home Club/Connecticut Presort team will represent Meriden after taking its 16th city championship in 17 years.
Defending Tri-Town champion Fosdick Fulfillment will bear the Wallingford colors while Grace’s Diner again will represent Southington.
“A lot of us know each other from years past from high school, college and previous tournaments,” said Fosdick manager Kelly Gannon. “The games are always competitive.”
Jenn Hines, formerly a softball and volleyball coach at Platt and now at Wilcox Tech, has a veteran Meriden squad looking to start a new Tri-Town winning streak after falling short the last two years. Fosdick swept Meriden last year at Westside Field in Wallingford with Linda Brockett garnering MVP honors. Southington won in 2011.
“We were very upset because we wanted three in a row,” Hines said.
Meriden will meet Wallingford at 10 a.m. and Southington at 11.
The suburban representatives meet at noon with round-robin results dictating how the rest of the double-elimination event will progress.
And, whereas last year’s tourney subscribed to Wallingford rules, this year’s will abide by Meriden’s.
“It’s different in Meriden because we play with a bigger ball,” Gannon said. “We play with a regular ball all year. Offensively it doesn’t affect us much. Defensively, in the first inning you try to get used to it.
“The bats are a little different,” Gannon added. “Wallingford has a bigger restrictions list. When we go to Meriden, it’s more of an advantage on offense. The ball comes off the bat quicker and goes further. It makes for an exciting game.”
Grace’s Diner will also have to adjust.
“They use a 12-inch ball and ours is 11 inches like Wallingford’s,” manager Maggie Moniz said. “I’m hoping we’ll adjust. I have a small hand, but that’s what we used in high school and college and it’s like riding a bike.”
Long-time friendship makes NIHC much more than just a softball team. The family-like culture contributes to its prolonged domination of Meriden softball. Most of the women are in their late 30s and early 40s. Three are in their 20s and three in their 50s.
The grande dame is pitcher/outfielder Pat Buonanni, mother of starting pitcher Kristy Coon.
“The core of our team has been together all this time,” Hines said. “We’ve added some younger blood the last few years and they learn about the tradition.”
Grace’s Diner has also become a virtual social club that extends beyond the dugout.
“Most of us have played together for 15 or 20 years,” Moniz said. “We do have a couple of fresh faces, but most of us have slowed down. We had a new team in our league this year where the oldest girl was 23. Our youngest is 23.”
Fosdick Fulfillment finished three games behind Wallingford champion Tech Circuit in the regular season. Grace’s Diner won the regular season and the playoffs en route to compiling an 18-2 record.
“That was nice, but our main goal each year is getting to the Tri-Town,” Moniz said. “I want to have good games. I want all the teams to play well. I don’t want teams to get blown out.
“The main goal is to win, but we want to have fun.”
Meriden Roster: Hines, Buonanni, Coon, Toni Gindel, Darlene Lewoc, Danielle Greene, Amy Jensen, Kate Dubois, Cayla French, C.J. Sabith, Sue Angeloff, Kelly Webster, Maggie Bender, Amy Drost, Holly McNabola.
Wallingford Roster: Gannon, Brockett, Katie Gill, Donna Borzillo, Katie McClelland, Stephanie Seymour, Kellie Marnalse, Beth Rachinsky, Kim Schmidt, Chris Gavin, Lisa Chuba, Kelly McLaughlin, Pinny Gill, Heather Dorsey, Charity Singer, Robin Oram, Diana Murchison, Casey Gavin.
Southington Roster: Moniz, Chris Robarge, Danielle Cranin, Deb Schwarz, Denise Henninger, Donna Theriault, Jill Gentile, Joelle Colandra, Julie Sopchak, Kelly Stuper, Laura Barnard, Laurie Martin, Liz Collins, Michele Lucas, Steph Kowalec, “Pants” Murray.