PAWCATUCK — Pawcatuck/North Stonington head coach Tom Lennon said it best when he simply uttered, “Finally,” after the final out was recorded in a 6-1 win over Waterford South.
The core of the 11-12 softball All-Stars had lost in the championship round two consecutive years before locking up the District 10 title with its second consecutive win over Waterford South in the best-of-three championship series Saturday.
“We lost in the finals the last two years,” Lennon said. “We lost as 9-and 10-year-olds then we lost to Mystic last year.”
Lennon said his team put in a lot of work to ensure that the third time was a charm.
“The girls started working out last December. They went to hitting cages, they put in countless hours outside of coming on the field and playing and that made the difference,” Lennon said.
Lennon’s daughter, Trinity, who was the game’s winning pitcher, was also glad to finally break through and win the title.
“I’m so happy,” she said. “We’ve all been working for this for four years now. Every year we come in second or third place, but now we’re first.”
The second game of the series with Waterford South was much closer than the 18-0 blowout Friday but the Pawcatuck/NS All-Stars were still in control for most of the game.
Pawcatuck/NS was already up 1-0 when it scored two runs in the top of the third inning to stretch the lead to three.
Lennon scored from third on an Abby Flakus groundout then Lainnie Connor came in on an error.
Waterford cut the margin to 3-1 in the bottom of the third on a Chloe McCue RBI single.
Pawcatuck got the lead back up to three in the top of the fourth on a Connor RBI single then added two more runs in the top of the sixth.
Connor had two singles and scored and Lennon was 3-for-3 with two runs scored.
Lennon, who held Waterford South in check for most of the game, retired the last seven batters she faced.
“We always bring each other up, we just felt confident that it was going to turn out this way,” she said.
Despite the comfortable margin of victory, Pawcatuck/NS did miss some early opportunities.
Pawcatuck/NS had runners on second and third with one out in the top of the first but did not score, then had two runners thrown out at home in the second inning and managed just one run on a Gabby Dellacono RBI single.
Lennon said the runners getting thrown out were his fault, but also said that aggression is something his team doesn’t just preach.
“We set a goal of playing as aggressively as possible. We’re going to force (the other team) to make the plays. Sometimes they make them and sometimes they don’t. We’ve played that way all season and we’re not going to stop,” Lennon said.
The aggressive play has certainly paid dividends to this point for the team as Pawcatuck/NS was able to outscore its District 10 tournament opponents by a combined 88-5 score.
“Some of us play travel ball and that’s really hard then we come to Little League and we’re like, ‘Whoa, we’ve gotten a lot better,’ because we all worked so hard,” Trinity Lennon said.
The elder Lennon agreed with his daughter’s sentiment.
“One of the girls said this to me when we watched two other teams that we expected to play. She said ‘Wow they’re not that good, they’ve gotten worse (since last year). My statement to her was, no they’ve gotten better but all the work you’ve done you’ve gotten that much better.”
“The run through the tournament has a lot to do with our dominant pitching. We don’t rely on one pitcher Trinny (Lennon) and Kendra (Perez) both throw the same and I have total confidence in them. They’re why we only gave up the five runs in the tournament. We scored a lot because we have very lively bats.”
With the victory Pawcatuck/NS moved to the Section 2 tournament, which begins Saturday at a time and site to be determined.
Pawcatuck will face the winner of the District 6 vs. District 7 game.
“I told them every step they take, the water gets deeper,” Lennon said. “Every game will be like tonight and they’re excited to play.”