BRISTOL - As the No. 4 seed in the Class LL softball state tournament last year, Bristol Eastern was upset 5-1 by No. 29-ranked Wilton.
It was the biggest upset in Class LL and also provided the Lancers with some extra motivation to make this season’s outcome different.
With the regular season now wrapped up, Bristol Eastern doesn’t yet know its opponent in this year’s tournament, but it will likely be a nine-win team from a group of possibilities that includes Newington, Simsbury, Manchester, New Canaan and Darien.
Whoever the Lancers draw won’t have it easy.
“We still have a young team,” Bristol Eastern coach Scott Redman said. “We graduated some seniors, but there’s a lot of kids back from last year, let’s put it that way. They definitely remember [last year’s state tourney loss]. Hopefully, this will be a really sharp week of practice getting ready for whoever we end up playing. This is the fun part. Can you get hot and make a run? We got a good core, we’ll see what happens.”
Everything starts with Erin Girard, one of the premier pitchers in the state. The sophomore has started every game for Bristol Eastern and is pitching her best at the right time of the season.
Girard has allowed one run in the last five games, while registering four shutouts. She’s been borderline perfect, something she’s emphasizing going into the postseason.
“There’s a lot of small ball and you need to make sure every throw is right on spot,” Girard said. “Everything has to be perfect.”
Outside of Girard, the Lancers have had multiple players put together impressive seasons in a deep lineup that averaged just under eight runs per game this season.
The loss of Zoe Lowe to a broken thumb, suffered last Tuesday, will be a challenge to overcome, as Lowe was in the midst of a standout freshman campaign.
Without her in the lineup, though, Bristol Eastern has shown it’s capable of putting up big run totals, as they’ve scored 42 runs in the four games without her.
“It’s disappointing [losing Lowe], but you’ve just got to make adjustments,” Redman said. “You got to adjust on the fly and next girl up. We’ve stepped up, haven’t missed a beat in the last week without her. You can’t think or dwell about those things. They happen. Injuries happen.”
With Lowe out of the lineup, Redman has inserted Lyzah Corliss into the No. 2 spot, a role she has relished. Corliss didn’t start on last year’s team, but will be a big part of the offensive production this time around.
“I feel like I do better under pressure,” the sophomore said. “When I’m under pressure, I’m a little more focused than I am when I’m more [relaxed]. I’ve been a little more patient at the plate than before.”
Taylor Keegan sets the tone, though, as the leadoff hitter. She’s been doing it all season and will look to continue her strong year in the postseason.
“She’s been leadoff last year and this year, she’s a sophomore only by grade level,” Redman said. “She plays a ton of softball. She’s a table setter for us. She’s been consistent all year and is hitting over .500. She doesn’t get a lot of credit, but she’s been doing it all for us.”
Keegan, like the others, has altered her mindset on the postseason after the loss last year.
“We really can’t underestimate any team,” Keegan said. “[Wilton] was a lot lower than us and I think we thought we could have just played like we did all season. But we can’t. We have to be at our best.”
With all the young players, Bristol Eastern’s lone senior in the lineup, Jordan Fitzsimons, will look to use her experience to propel the Lancers not into just the second round, but on a deep run.
With her final postseason approaching, Fitzsimmons is ready for one last go around.
“I’m not nervous, I’m excited,” Fitzsimons said. “You can’t think too much about it. I just like to go into it like another game. I think it’s going to take us having energy throughout the whole game. I think now we know that in tournament games it’s not going to be a big gap between scores. It could take just one timely hit for a score to change, so you have to be locked in at all times.”
Dan Orencole can be reached at 860-973-1811 or email@example.com