Conference championship tournaments get moving on Monday. Here’s a look at what to expect from the area’s teams:
**In Shoreline Conference baseball, top seed Coginchaug hosts No. 8 East Hampton in one of four quarterfinal games Monday (all have a 4 p.m. first pitch). Also on tap: No. 2 H-K hosts No. 7 Morgan, No. 3 Valley Regional hosts No. 6 Hale-Ray and No. 5 North Branford visits No. 4 Cromwell.
Coginchaug is the favorite. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The Blue Devils held at least a share of first place for the length of the regular season and this veteran squad has been thinking about winning the championship ever since the 2020 season was canceled more than a year ago.[crowdsignal poll=10840044]
They have two 5-0 pitchers, seniors Kolby Pascarelli (UConn commit, St. Thomas More for postgrad) and Alex Mach (UConn-Avery Point), and . The team batting average is .357, led by junior Jeremy Mangiameli (.492), Pascarelli (.443), Jack Konopka (Avery Point, .358) and Anthony Morro (.353). And the Devils run a lot – 86 stolen bases in 18 games.
But the competition in the Shoreline is formidable. Winning three games in five days – semifinals are Tuesday and the final Friday at Palmer Field in Middletown – takes talent, guts and nerves of steel.
The Blue Devils and Bellringers meet just a week after East Hampton’s surprising 7-2 victory in Durham. The Bellringers finished strong, beating three good teams in Old Lyme, Coginchaug and Valley Regional to qualify for both the Shoreline and Class S fields.
Morgan and H-K split their two regular-season encounters, with the Cougars posting a 10-4 home win on May 12, the Huskies’ only loss over their last five. H-K has very good pitching depth, but if Morgan starts right-hander Rob Zirlis and he puts up zeros, the Huskies have a shot at an upset.
Cromwell beat North Branford twice this season. The Panthers have as good an offensive lineup as any, plus pitching depth, and if they bring their best defensive effort, they have a fighting chance to win the whole thing.
Valley was 11-3 at one point in the season before losing close games to Cromwell, Coginchaug and East Hampton, so the Warriors could use a reset against a Hale-Ray team that played .500 ball in the second half of the season.
The last champion, Portland in 2019, did not qualify.
**H-K closed out its regular season with non-league game against Ellington on Friday (5-4) and Windsor on Saturday (7-1 loss). The Cougars, one of the few teams in the state to play a 20-game schedule, finished 15-5. Against Windsor, Luke DiMauro had two doubles and Matt Miranda two hits.
**In Shoreline softball, Valley advanced out of the play-in round (5-2 over East Hampton/Portland) and so did Old Saybrook (9-5 over Morgan). In Monday’s quarterfinal matchups, No. 1 H-K hosts Saybrook, No. 2 Coginchaug hosts Valley, No. 3 North Branford host Hale-Ray and No. 4 Cromwell hosts Old Lyme.[crowdsignal poll=10840050]
This year, each tournament game will be played at the higher-seeded team. The semifinals are Tuesday and the championship game is scheduled for Thursday. The field had just 10 this year: Westbrook opted not to play – the Knights did not have enough rostered players this season — and Portland players caught on with East Hampton as a co-op for 2021.
Any of the first four seeds can win this thing.
Each has excellent starting pitching: H-K with Bella Richwine or Kaleigh Bodak; Coginchaug with Kelly Boothroyd or Amalia DeMartino; North Branford with Bella Hills or Kiley Mullins; and Cromwell with Lily Kenney.
On the offensive side, each club has the potential for fireworks. Coginchaug’s lineup caught fire in the second half. Cromwell has speed and can manufacture runs. North Branford’s 1 through 4 hitters are dangerous. And we’ll see if H-K’s arsenal of freshmen, who were dominant at times this season, can see their way through to the title.
**Shoreline officials ask that all fans wear a mask to its events for the duration of the spring season, including state tournament play.
**In Valley’s semifinal win over East Hampton/Portland, Abby Amara was 4 for 4 with a double and two RBIs and Lexi Ross was 2 for 3 with three runs scored. Anna Benson was the winning pitcher.
**In the Southern Connecticut Conference’s eight-team softball field, No. 5 Mercy (12-6) hits the road to play Shelton (14-4) on Monday, the first meeting this season between the two. Shelton has won nine in a row. The Tigers are powered by senior pitcher Alexa Boone, who’s surpassed 200 strikeouts this season and 400 for her career.
**No. 5 Xavier (12-5) visits No. 4 West Haven (14-4) on Monday. The Westies won eight straight to finish the regular season, but they lost twice to the Falcons. The winner meets either No. 8 North Haven or top seed Daniel Hand in Tuesday’s semifinals.
**Middletown High’s baseball and softball teams did not qualify for postseason play.
**In the SCC girls lacrosse quarterfinals, Mercy was ousted by Hand 16-9 on Saturday at the Surf Club in Madison. Lily Schoonmaker, the Tigers’ top scorer this season, and Kaylie Zemke led the offense with five goals each. Kyle Fordyce (two goals) and Maddy Carbone (one) also scored and goalkeeper Reilly Keegan had six saves.
**The Old Lyme girls finished the regular season at .500 with a 12-3 win over H-K. Caroline Crolius led the Wildcats (8-8) with six goals and an assist. Emily Mesham and Schuyler Greenho scored two goals apiece, Grace Arnold had a goal and Sadie Bowman a goal and two assists. Yumi Imai (two) and Sophie Gromala scored for the Cougars (4-10).
MORE TO COME …