CHESHIRE — For Cheshire High School senior Ella Watson, playing softball has taught her just as many lessons about herself as the sport.
In developing skills in club leagues and the high school level, she has been motivated to work harder every day.
“I’ve always loved softball, but my passion has picked up in the last couple of years,” said Watson. “Coach (Kristine) Drust always says what you give to the game, it will give back to you. I think about that a lot and it pushes me to keep getting better.”
A sound work ethic has led to an opportunity Watson didn’t think possible as a youngster. She’s accepted a Division I scholarship to play softball at Fairfield University.
"It feels amazing,” stated Watson. “It is nice to know where I’m going and know that I have a nice future there.”
In starting her recruiting search early, Watson was able to take tours prior to the coronavirus pandemic shutting down colleges last year. She visited Fairfield at the start of her junior year.
“They have a really good nursing program that I’m thinking of going into after graduation,” said Watson, who also considered Amherst, NYU and Providence College. “They have a good balance between athletics and education at Fairfield.”
Watson looks forward to playing for coach Julie Brzezinski, who has led Fairfield to its only NCAA Tournament appearances in 2015 and 2017. The Stags won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference titles in both of those seasons.
“I hope to have a good four years with the team,” said Watson. “I want to get a good education and see where that takes me.”
“I couldn’t be more excited for her,” said Drust. “Ella is a die-hard athlete who wants to be surrounded by the best. I can’t wait to see her game continue to evolve.”
Drust is proud when her players want to keep playing softball on the next level. There are now five Cheshire seniors who have made college softball commitments: Watson, Bri Pearson (Adelphi), Gracie Hemstock (Western New England), Trinadey Santiago (AIC) and Danielle Floyd (Johnson & Wales).
“We all have the chance to keep playing the sport we love and show what a strong team we have in Cheshire,” said Watson.
Watson began her career with Cheshire Youth Softball. She joined the Cheshire Flames before playing for her current team, the Cheshire Wildcats.
“I think it is awesome that I’ve got to play on a lot of good teams with great coaches,” reflected Watson, an outfielder. “All of my coaches have inspired me to keep going.”
As a sophomore at Cheshire High, Watson worked her way into the varsity lineup and provided clutch hitting off the bench.
“It was a great experience,” said Watson. “Even though I didn’t have a starting spot, everyone supported me. They were happy that I was there with them.”
In 2019, she helped Cheshire win a third consecutive Hammonasset Division crown. The Rams also captured the Southern Connecticut Conference title with a 3-2 victory over North Haven in eight innings.
“Winning that SCC Championship captured my love for softball,” recalled Watson.
Heading into last year, the Rams had made five consecutive Class LL semifinal appearances, but because of the coronavirus pandemic, the spring season was canceled.
“It was really not being able to play,” Watson said. “Even though we didn’t get on the field, we learned so much through team calls over Zoom and other activities. We got better from that experience.”
While not able to practice with teammates last spring, Watson worked on her own for the chance to play again in the summer. In getting back on the field with the Wildcats, she shined in tournaments and caught the attention of college coaches.
“It was awesome to get back on the field,” reflected Watson. “We were excited to play even though we had to wear masks out there.”
Drust feels that Watson is one of Cheshire’s most improved players.
“She has worked tirelessly in the last two years to get better at this game,” stated Drust. “Ella has put herself in a position to be a great player at the next level.”
Watson is appreciative of Drust and her assistant coach, Jaymie Sommers, for leading the Rams through the pandemic.
“They push you to be the best you can be,” explained Watson. “Whether it is lifting, doing volunteer work or practicing with the team, there is always room for improvement."
While not knowing what the spring season will look like yet, Watson hopes that the Rams can win a postseason tournament.
“We want to play our brand of softball,” said Watson. “Hopefully, we have a good record and come out on top in games.”
Before playing softball in the spring, Watson will compete in her final season of basketball. She feels that she has smoothly adjusted to playing for Angelica Ariola, who has succeeded Michelle Vieira as Rams head coach.
“I loved playing for (Vieira). She brought out a lot of passion in me and I’m going to miss her on the court, but the I like the new coaching staff, too,” explained Watson. “I think this is going to be a fun season.”