“At this point I can say we are here to win a state championship,” Southington coach Davina Hernandez said. “That’s probably the biggest rivalry in the state all-time. We have faced six times and it’s split 3-3. They are always good and well coached. They have the same expectations at Amity that we have at Southington. Their kids play in the summer and the offseason. These are two schools with great softball communities.”
Southington won the first three championship meetings with the Spartans in 1979, 1997 and 1999. Amity has taken the last three: 2002, 2003 and 2012.
The last game is very fresh for several current Southington players. They were sophomores and freshmen when Amity topped Southington 10-6 two years ago.
Junior hurler Kendra Friedt came into that game in relief as a freshman and she doesn’t have great memories of that June day at DeLuca Field.
“I didn’t pitch much varsity that year and I was pretty nervous because we were down,” Friedt recalled. “I’ve gotten a lot more confident and my pitches move more and I have more speed than I did as a freshman. It’s not going to be the same game.”
Friedt said her team is also going to play a much cleaner game in the field than it did two years ago.
“What’s going to be different from the last time we saw them is that we are going to put the ball in play and aren’t going to make as many errors because we made a few in that game. We are going to be ready to win.”
As is the case in most big games, victory or defeat could come down to one mistake. Defensively, the Blue Knights feel good about themselves. They returned their entire infield from last season’s state championship campaign.
“We have to prepare and continue what we have been doing at the plate and play defense,” Hernandez said. “Defense wins championships so if we play flawless defense we will have a chance.”
It was the 2012 title game loss to Amity that fueled Southington to its 15th state title last year, which came in a 1-0 victory over Mercy.
That was under previous coach John Bores. This year, with Hernandez at the helm, the team hasn’t missed a beat.
“We haven’t felt pressure because I don’t think we expected to go 23-0,” Hernandez said. “We lost some top kids with great batting averages at tough spots to fill. But we have had some kids really step up and almost every player has played in every single game this year.”
Hernandez emptied the bench after taking an 8-0 lead over Daniel Hand in the semifinals. The players that came off the pine were ready and hit line drives.
Tonight’s matchup will be the third straight SCC school that the Knights face in the tournament. After dispatching Newtown of the South West Conference 13-0 in the first round, Southington edged out No. 8 Cheshire 2-1 at home in the quarters, then clobbered No. 5 Hand 8-0 in West Haven and now face Amity for all the marbles.
The Spartans have had to sweat out every game in their run to the finals. Amity defeated Simsbury 2-1 in the first round and Norwich Free Academy 2-0 in the second before surviving a 5-4 quarterfinal against Darien and then a 2-1 thriller in the semis against South Windsor.
“They have a good team,” Southington sophomore Natalie Wadolowski said. “If they didn’t have a good team, they wouldn’t be here.”
Wadolowski was the Most Outstanding Player of the Class LL finals last year against Mercy as a freshman.
“Once it comes to tournament time we all need to step up, and we have,” Wadolowski said. “I feel I need to do better in games like this. A lot of people expect us to win. We expect a lot from ourselves. We have high standards. Every year our goal is to get another title and another banner. That would be amazing for me winning two state titles in two years.”