WEST HAVEN - The Southington softball team entered Saturday night’s Class LL championship game with a lot of confidence.
The team was coming off a thrilling win over rival and defending champion Cheshire in the semifinals, so it had every right to be feeling good.
But it was Trumbull’s turn for the title this year, as the Blue Knights lost 4-3. A win would have given Southington its fourth state title in the last five years.
Yet the loss in the title game doesn’t take away from the season the team had. Every year the Blue Knights enter with extremely high expectations, though this year was a little bit different.
Last year the season ended for Southington in the state semifinals, and then it lost a lot of key players coming into this season.
While many thought this might be a down year for the Blue Knights, they went 18-2 in the regular season, which only ratcheted expectations up yet again.
If you had told the Blue Knights that they would be in the state championship game this season after all of the key players lost from last year, the team certainly would have taken it.
“I told the girls that there are plenty of teams in the state that wish they were in the position we were in,” Southington head coach Davina Hernandez said. “You can’t win every game and unfortunately we got outplayed [on Saturday].
“They still have a lot to be proud of. There was always a lot of doubt surrounding our team this year, but they were able to prove that we did have a really good team and we definitely deserved to be here.”
Hernandez talked about the doubt surrounding her team throughout the entire season and said that it seemed to have fueled the players.
She would constantly remind her team that people were saying Southington wouldn’t be good this year, or Southington can’t hit, and that served as motivation for the players to work even harder.
“There is absolutely some sort of fulfillment to just making it this far,” Hernandez said. “I told the girls that they should be really proud to even get here and that regardless of the score, we were really proud of them.”
This season may not have ended with a championship, but it is still one that Hernandez will not soon forget. The fourth year head coach has won two state titles in her young career, but may look back at this year’s team with the fondest memories.
“This is a really special group of girls,” Hernandez said. “They have made me laugh more than I have laughed in a long time, during a very difficult time in my life, so I am very thankful for that.”
It may not have been the dream ending that Southington was hoping for to its 2016-17 season, but the team should be back contending again next season.
There will be some key losses, including four starters - Michelle Woodruff, Maighread Scafariello, Amanda Delorme and Katie Semmel - but there are quite a few young players returning that have a lot of talent.
Among those are starting pitcher Kara Zazzaro, who was dominant for much of the season; third baseman Abby Lamson, who hit cleanup this year; Sarah Myrick, who has the ability to single-handedly jump-start the offense; and Chrissy Marotto, who is a solid shortstop and a vastly improved hitter.
“We are going to bounce back from this,” Hernandez said. “We are losing some really important seniors, but we also have a lot of young players coming back; and we have Kara coming back, which is nice, so we just have to put this behind us and look forward to next season.”