ND-Fairfield falls in Class S Softball championship
STRATFORD — So close, but yet, so far.
After a last-inning comeback lifted Notre Dame-Fairfield into the Class S championship game, the Lancers were looking for a little more magic to try and capture the program’s first-ever state title.
It didn’t happen.
Lawton fired a two-hitter — giving up just two bunt base hits over seven innings — and the Crusaders turned a triple play while capping off the season with a 22-2 record.
The Lancers, who went 20-6 under first-year coach Jeff Bevino, started seven underclassmen and are looking forward to next season.
“I just told them how proud I was of them,” said Bevino to Hearst Connecticut Media reporter John Nash. “From where they came from to where they are today, I just wanted them to know what they meant to me. They’re tremendous kids that believed.”
Notre Dame defeated Immaculate, Wolcott Tech, Wamago and Stafford to reach the championship game.
Lawton had 10 strikeouts and walked just one to earn her second straight state title win from the circle.
The Crusaders jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first. With one out, Allie Brown tripled to left center. After a walk to Lawton, Alexandra Lombardo plated Brown and reached base on an RBI fielder’s choice. Valerie Nobrega then singled to load the bases.
That brought up Aubry DeFoe. Moments after she missed a grand slam by six feet down the left-field line, she delivered a run-scoring single that made it a 2-0 game.
ND-Fairfield pitcher Madison Letizia would settle in after that, putting up six straight goose eggs to keep the Lancers within striking distance.
In the top of the third, Letizia led off with a walk and Ariana DeNitto turned a sacrifice bunt attempt into an infield single, putting Lancers on first and second with nobody out. Coach Jeff Bevino was looking for his baserunners to steal, but the Notre Dame batter popped up a bunt attempt, which turned into an inning-ending triple play.
“It was supposed to be a fake bunt and we were going to steal third, but our hitter didn’t hear the sign,” Bevino said. “It was just too loud and she didn’t hear it and she popped the ball up. It’s just a bad break.”
Even as Lawton cruised through the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, setting down nine batters in a row, the Holy Cross coaching staff reminded its players of Notre Dame’s knack for coming back.
The Lancers have had multiple seventh-inning wins this season, including Thursday’s semifinal win over Stafford when they overcame a two-run deficit to walk off with the victory.
“I said it in the fifth inning,” Dwyer said. “This (Notre Dame) team is not going to stop trying. They’re going to go the entire seven innings. They’re a great team and they’ll fight to the end. They didn’t get here just because they wanted to be here. They deserve to be here.”
In the top of the seventh, the Lancers tried to rally as Emily Schofield led off with a bunt single. She moved up to second on a wild pitch and advanced to third on Dayniera Artis’ sacrifice bunt.
With one out, DeFoe — the Holy Cross catcher — laid out for a diving catch of a foul ball for the second out and then Lawton then clinched the victory with her 10th strikeout of the game.