CIAC finals: Three games, three days, three Knights

CIAC finals: Three games, three days, three Knights


SOUTHINGTON — In the storied history of Southington High School athletics, the Blue Knights could do something that has never been done in school history: win three state titles in three days.

The quest starts tonight when the No. 3 Southington boys volleyball team plays in the Class L final against No. 1 Ridgefield at Kennedy High School in Waterbury at 6 p.m.

Then on Friday, the Southington baseball team, also seeded No. 3, makes its third trip to the finals in four years. The Blue Knights face defending champ Amity, the No. 17 seed, for the second season in a row. First pitch is at 7 p.m. at Middletown’s Palmer Field.

The last leg is Saturday, when the undefeated No. 1 softball team also squares off against Amity, seeded No. 7, at 7 p.m. at DeLuca Field in Stratford.

“Everyone’s excited and we are all looking forward to having three teams all in the state championships,” Southington senior and volleyball standout Peter Masters said Wednesday. “It would be incredible to get three state titles in the spring season.”

Fellow volleyball senior David Shaughnessy said there is an inherent pressure to have success as a Southington athlete.

“It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s amazing to meet the high expectations that everyone has for Southington volleyball,” Shaughnessy said. “In the beginning of the year we feel it more. Once we get into the matches, that is what we focus on.”

After playing in his state final tonight, Shaughnessy said he expects to attend the baseball and softball contests as well.

“It’s an exciting time of year,” he said. “Everyone wants to come out and support every team. It would be great to get three in a row, three days in a row, with big fan sections at every game. It’s a big deal.”

Big, and unprecedented. This is the first time Southington has had three different teams reach the state finals in the same spring.

The baseball and softball teams have made it in tandem five times before. They did it last year as well as in 1999, 1997, 1988 and 1987. The only time both teams won it all in the same year was 1999.

Southington football also won a state title in that 1998-99 school year. Given that this year’s football team won a state crown back in early winter, a repeat Knights trifecta could be hand.

Or perhaps envelope and linguistics will be pushed. Perhaps Southington will see a “tetrafecta” with four overall state titles. Or, considering that the gymnastics team won the Class L championship, it could turn out to be a “pentafecta.”

Sound Greek? Well, it is. And rightly so. Classic ground is what the Blue Knights have a chance to tread.

“There is certainly plenty of excitement around the school,” said Southington athletic director Eric Swallow. “The fact we have three teams make the state finals reflects well on the quality of athletes and coaching we have here at Southington.”

Southington baseball coach Charlie Lembo said with so much expected from his players, they have to bring their best game in and game out.

“They know there’s a bullseye on their back and you try to use that as a coach,” Lembo said.

“If you don’t come out ready to play, that other team, they will.

“You want to be part of something bigger than yourself and that is how the athletic program is here at Southington.”

Southington baseball co-captain Michael Rogalski attended the boys volleyball semifinal, which was played Monday night in Shelton, and he anticipates going to the volleyball and softball finals as well.

“It’s a culture around here,” Rogalski said. “Our football team and gymnastic teams won state titles. We expect to win. We have a winning tradition and we want to carry that on.

“We want to leave a mark on this school,” he added. “We graduate in a week; we have one day of classes left. We all made the Final Four last year and only softball won. It would be great for all of us to win and the entire Class of 2014 to go out on top.”

UConn-bound pitcher Joe Rivera said the baseball team feeds off the success of other teams in the school.

“It comes from the coaching,” Rivera said. “They expect so much from us. They push us to do the best we can. It’s so disciplined here. That’s what makes us so good.”

Softball head coach Davina Hernandez has noticed a camaraderie between the teams in her first year as a head coach at the school.

“They are definitely a town that supports each other team to team,” said Hernandez, a native of Bristol. “They are super-excited that there are three of us competing for a state championship in three days. That gives them a little more fire to win.”

Blue Knight senior outfielder Caroline Burke said that winning is contagious at Southington.

“We feel motivated by the baseball team and volleyball team,” Burke said. “When they succeed, we want to succeed, too, and be right there with them. Everybody works so hard and, all around, we are certainly an athletic school.”

Junior hurler Kendra Friedt said she would like to see a the Southington triple crown.

“It would be so cool if all three of us won. It shows how good our school is in athletics,” said Friedt. “We will all be there to support each other.”

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