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  • Greg Lederer

Cheshire Softball Closes Regular Season With 15th Straight Win, Secures Top Tourney Seeds

Cheshire softball posed for their traditional selfie after winning on Saturday. Submitted photo.

Cheshire softball players congratulate Lyla Blair after she hit a two-run home run in the third inning against Daniel Hand.

by Greg Lederer

Cheshire Sports Media

On Saturday, Cheshire High School softball (19-1) ended the regular season with their 15th consecutive win, 8-0, over Daniel Hand (9-11). CHS swept the series in the regular season.

“I feel like we have something really special this year and something that all of the other teams don’t have that we are going to face,” said junior Bailey Vitanza, of preparing for the post-season. “Our bond is what we is going to bring us, along with our talent."

In the second inning, CHS capitalized on miscues to jump ahead. With one out, junior Bailey Vitanza reached on an error and then advanced to second on a wild pitch.

Sophomore Molly Fleming hit a grounder in the infield, but in trying to get Vitanza at third base, Hand committed an error on a fielder’s choice.

From there, Cheshire executed a double steal. After Hand threw down to second base to try to get Fleming, Vitanza took off and slid safely into home plate.

“We were slow in the beginning, but I feel like we kind of started a rally,” explained Vitanza. “We just built off each other’s energy and that run just kind of got the ball rolling. I was glad I was able to do that for my team.”

CHS returned to break the game open with seven runs in the third. Sophomore Jordan McCue opened the inning with a single.

Sophomore Ava Pearson posted a hit to left and when the ball was misplayed, McCue came around to score and Pearson sprinted into third base. Senior Karla Carangelo reached on a fielder’s choice and junior Erin Hersh followed with an RBI ground out to bring in Pearson.

With two outs, the Rams put up four more runs. Vitanza recorded an RBI double and then sophomore Lyla Blair smacked a two-run homer to right field.

“I thought it was a great opportunity to help my team behind my back in the dugout and it really showed that we can do anything and it got a rally going and it was a really exciting moment for all of the girls and me and seeing all of them help each other and just have that domino effect on the hits,” explained Blair.

Fleming extended the inning with a double to set the table for RBI hits from senior Emma Ballschmieder (double) and McCue (single).

“That energy is so contagious,” said Vitanza. “It is like dominoes falling. We just keep building off each other. It was like double after double, single, and everyone just came together and did what we needed to do to win.”

In six innings, sophomore pitcher Jenica Matos recorded 15 strikeouts. She gave up two hits, five walks, and a hit by pitch.

Hand put two runners on base in the first, third, fourth, and sixth innings, but Matos and the Rams kept them scoreless. From behind the plate, Hersh threw out a runner at third base to end the third.

“I think what we see is that Jenica uses the team’s plan, but Jenica also has her own plan out there. I think she knows what she wants to do,” stated Head Coach Kristine Drust. “I think that sometimes it might look she is not in control out there, but I think she absolutely is in control and she knows exactly what she is doing and the plan and the batters she wants to throw to and maybe some batters she wants to pitch around a little bit. I don’t think she is pitching like a sophomore right now. I think she is pitching a little more mature than that.”

In entering to pitch in the seventh against Hand, junior Marina Gronbach worked around a hit to seal the victory.

Junior Tai Byrd (double, single) joined McCue with two hits in the victory. Carangelo added a single in the sixth.

The Rams have clinched the top seed in the Southern Connecticut Conference and Class LL tournaments.

“I think the way we are playing is something I’ve never seen before and it’s honestly just remarkable about how all of the girls work together and how we come together and just love each other on the field, on and off, and it just really shows how wins affect it a lot,” stated Blair.

To start the SCC playoffs on Monday, Cheshire hosts Jonathan Law (eighth seed, 13-7) at 4 p.m. Before the game, the Rams will hold Senior Day for Ballschmieder, Carangelo, and Taylor Kozlowski.

In the regular season, CHS beat Law on April 10 (5-4) and April 29 (13-1).

“What I’m most excited about going into post-season is that the girls and their dynamic is the strongest we’ve ever had, so I’m super excited to see Cheshire softball go into post-season with that,” explained Drust. “I really can’t ask for anything more from our pitchers and our defense and our offense and then after that, the icing on the cake is that they all truly, truly love and respect and appreciate one another. That makes for a good experience, good energy, and leads to success. Good relationships lead to success.”

On her birthday, softball player Tai Byrd hit a double and a single against Daniel Hand.

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