SOUTHINGTON — Leading up to the 2019 season, the Southington softball senior class had tremendous success, but always had something missing on its resume: a championship.
That changed on Saturday night.
Southington’s five seniors, with a 7-6 win over No. 8 Norwich Free Academy at Stratford’s Frank DeLuca Hall of Fame Field, celebrated the 2019 Class LL championship.
Shortstop Chrissy Marotto, third baseman Abby Lamson, outfielder Gabby Verderame-Malachowski, pitcher Julia Theriault and catcher Diane Williams all did their part in the championship run and each was on the field Saturday.
“It’s really exciting. I’m just so happy for these girls,” Southington coach Davina Hernandez said. “They came up short a couple of years in a row. This group came in after a team that won three state championships in a row. That brought in an expectation to win and it became a disappointment for not making it or finishing the championship game.
“I’m so proud of this team. It’s been such a team effort and how much our depth would help us.”
Marotto, who is playing at Endicott next season, went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles on Saturday. She was named Class LL Most Valuable Player.
“She’s just been huge,” Hernandez said. “She is small, but mighty. She sets the tone in every game. Every at-bat she drove the ball. After she made a mistake, she wiped it away. That speaks to the growth as players and individuals.”
Junior first baseman Katie Gundersen caught the final out of the game.
“That catch was for my seniors,” Gundersen said. “I love every single one of them. They deserve it so much and we played our hearts out. We wanted to do that for them.
“All I heard from them today was them saying that they want it,” Gundersen added. “All throughout the tournament we said this is all for our seniors and we did it for them today. We made it to the state championship two years ago and the semifinals last year, and this year we wanted to finish. That was our goal this year.”
The senior leadership was valuable throughout the regular season and then in the postseason run. Hernandez said Lamson was a steadying force in the infield while the Wildcats were in the midst of a four-run, seventh-inning rally that cut a 7-2 Southington lead to 7-6.
“Some things that go overlooked in a big game like this is Abby getting the infielders together and talking to the pitcher and patting them on the back,” Hernandez said. “She took it upon herself to tell the rest of the team, ‘We’ve got it; these are ground balls and we can field them.’ It brought everyone together.”
Lamson said the Blue Knights have had a few rollercoaster games throughout her career and that she never lost confidence as NFA continued to inch closer.
“We knew our pitchers would get it done because we had their backs in the field,” Lamson said. “Almost like every other pitch I’m talking to our pitcher, ‘I’m ready for the ball, I want it to come to me.’”
Lamson is going on to play Division I ball at UMass-Amherst.
“It means the world,” Lamson said of the championship. “It’s been a long time coming, especially for our senior class. To get it done meant everything to our senior class.”
Hernandez said hard work is what put this team over the top.
“This is really emotional,” Hernandez said. “It took a lot of hard work. We weren’t ranked seventh in the country throughout the year. We didn’t have an All-American pitcher who was ranked in the top 10 in the nation. We didn’t have that this year and it was just a total team effort.”
Hernandez said she’s been tough on this group this season.
“I told them they would thank me later,” Hernandez said. “Abby (Lamson) brought it up yesterday. She said, ‘You have been very hard on us this year, but we are thankful for it.’ That really meant a lot. There were times where I thought I would be too hard on those guys. They said they knew I was doing what I needed to do to prepare them. I can’t be their friend. I have to be their coach. I have to be hard on them and I have to show them that they need to be reaching to be better.”
Lamson said playing at Southington High has had a positive impact on her.
“I've gone through this with some of my best friends,” Lamson said. “We have been through a lot in these last four years. I can’t thank them and Davina enough for everything. I’ve grown as a person and player at Southington.”
Verderame-Malachowski slugged a big three-run homer in Southington’s 5-1 win over No. 2 Trumbull in the semifinals on Monday in Stratford.
“I’ve played with these girls for 14 years and it’s pretty special to come out on top with them. It’s incredible,” Verderame-Malachowski said. “This team ranges from freshmen to seniors. Everyone comes out to play. Our class has been always in the running and we’ve come up short the last few years. But to go out on top is pretty cool. We just wanted to come out and play our hardest every day.”
The 22-3 campaign added up to the 18th state title in Southington softball history and the third with Hernandez as head coach. It was the first since Southington rallied to beat Cheshire in the 2015 final.
“We’ve been waiting,” Maratto said. “All of my seniors have been waiting for this. It feels amazing. I can’t even comprehend it right now.”