By KEVIN ROBERTS
Sixth-seeded Southington softball didn’t seem like a favorite to win the Class LL state championship. Well, the Lady Knights ripped off five straight victories and won the program’s 18th state championship in 23 tries. Davina Hernandez earned her third state title as a head coach.
Southington had some strong individual performances during the 2019 season. Junior Alex Rogers hit a team-high .510 (25-for-49) to go along with eight doubles, three triples, one home run, 23 runs scored and 21 RBI.
Senior captain Abby Lamson led the Knights with three home runs, 14 walks and 33 RBI. Lamson hit .492, which was third on the team behind Rogers and fellow senior captain Chrissy Marotto. Marotto hit .500 and led the team with nine doubles, six triples, 37 runs scored and 15 stolen bases.
Senior captain Gabby Malachowski was second on the team with two home runs while adding three doubles, three triples, eight stolen bases, 18 runs scored, 19 RBI and a batting average of .391.
Junior Katie Gundersen hit .417 with two doubles, three triples, a home run, 15 runs scored and 14 RBI. Junior Kelsey Fernandez hit .328 with 21 runs scored and 15 RBI while senior Diane Williams added a .353 average and 14 RBI. Sophomore Nicole Greco had 14 runs scored and 11 RBI.
In the circle, sophomore Julia Panarella had a 9-1 record with a 1.56 ERA. She gave up 26 runs (18 earned runs) on 51 hits in 81 innings, struck out 101 and walked 22. Senior Julia Theriault was 9-2 with a 2.75 ERA. She gave up 34 runs (19 earned runs) on 42 hits in 48 1/3 innings, struck out 43 and walked 14. Sophomore Katelyn Lipski was 3-0 and freshman Sam Sullivan was 1-0.
Southington loses captains Lamson, Marotto and Malachowski to graduation, along with fellow seniors Williams and Theriault. What returns for the Knights is a plethora of young talent which gained valuable experience in 2019.
“I think it just gives them a little taste of what it could be like,” Hernandez said after the win in the Class LL final on June 8.
Panarella pitched in 21 games, including 11 starts, as a sophomore. She led Southington in innings, ERA and strikeouts.
“Our pitcher is doing amazing. I couldn’t ask for anything more than her. She’s been shutting it down,” said Malachowski about Panarella after the semifinal win over Trumbull on June 3.
Sullivan, a freshman, got the last three outs of the state championship game against NFA.
“Sam, as a freshman, coming in, getting a double off the bench, and then coming in on the mound was just unbelievable,” Hernandez said.
Marotto added: “She’s a great pitcher, and I’ve known that since tryouts. I saw her at tryouts, and I was like whoa, she’s a good pitcher. We had full confidence, she shut it down, and she did great. I’m so happy for her.”
Sophomore Kayla Pelletier picked up some valuable experience at the catcher position. She was the starter in the last three state tournament games.
“She’s a sophomore, she’s young, she’s been working in and out of the lineup, and she really stepped up big today,” Hernandez said after the Trumbull semifinal game. “She got robbed twice, and then she drove it for a hit another time.”
Pelletier made just two errors in 79 total chances and had a .975 fielding percentage.
Greco played in all 25 games, the only player other than Lamson or Marotto to do so. Greco, a left fielder, and Fernandez, a center fielder, didn’t make an error between them this season. Fernandez’s lone assist of the season came on a double play against Ridgefield in the second round where she threw out a runner at the plate after catching a fly ball. Junior Alex Rogers played second base and had just three errors in 64 total chances for a fielding percentage of .953.
Junior Gianna Perugini was a key pinch runner and scored 12 runs. Classmates Kristin Rose and Kasey Mason had some good experience, as did sophomores Jazmin Lasane and Alison Rembish. Freshmen Sullivan, Ashlyn Desaulniers and Dominique Gaudio also gained valuable experience, Gaudio in the circle.
Fernandez, Rogers, Greco, Gundersen, Panarella and Pelletier all started in the state championship game. Sullivan, Perugini, Rose and Desaulniers all saw some time off the bench.
“The girls on the bench were ready to just come in, ready to perform,” Hernandez said. “It was a total team effort, I could not be more proud of this group. I can’t be more proud of them. It was just a 100 percent team effort, it wasn’t one person who did it today, and I’m just really proud of them.”
For Southington, great players have graduated, but the goals remain the same. The Knights will be disciplined, strong on fundamentals, possess plenty of talent, and push their way to victory.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com