Bonds Of Softball, Friendship: ‘Coginchaug’s Grown On Us’

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Pictured: From left, Coginchaug seniors Amalia DeMartino, Dana Boothroyd and Kelly Boothroyd. ”To watch them grow and improve – that’s why I coach,” Steve DeMartino said.

By Marc Silvestrini
middlesexcountysports@gmail.com

DURHAM — Kelly Boothroyd is generally a happy, self-possessed, confident young lady who smiles easily and seems to have an extremely positive approach to life.

But there is a dark shadow lurking somewhere in her near future, a bleak, gloomy event she does not want to anticipate or even think about.

Funny thing is, she is not the only one suffering from this strange emotional malady. Her sister, Dana, and close friend and classmate, Amalia DeMartino, are experiencing the exact same trauma.

“I’m having a lot of trouble with this. It’s such a sad thing, I don’t even want to think about it,” Kelly said.

The Boothroyd sisters and DeMartino, all Durham residents, are senior members of the Coginchaug Regional High School softball team. They have been playing the sport either with or against each other now for 13 years, or since their T-ball days when they were five and six years old.

Soon – at the conclusion of Coginchaug’s journey through the CIAC Class S tournament, which begins May 29 – the girls will conclude their high school softball careers. They will never again button up their red and white Coginchaug uniforms.

Like all high school seniors, they will be moving on to the next phase of their lives, both as students and as softball players. The Boothroyds will be playing next spring at Simmons University in Boston while DeMartino will be taking her bat and glove to St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York.

Though the trio will likely continue to play together on the Connecticut Eliminators – a Cromwell-based summer travel team for college-age players – each realizes they will never be able to recapture the magical and comforting intimacy that often surrounds teammates in a high school sports program.

“It’s just not going to be the same,” Dana said. “It’s kind of weird knowing that this chapter of our lives is coming to an end. The three of us have kind of grown up together, shared big moments together, won a lot of games together … and now that’s coming to an end.”

Sitting on the bleachers that parallel the first-base line at Coginchaug’s varsity softball field, DeMartino waves her right arm to encompass the various softball fields in the area, each of which holds a special memory or two.

“Coginchaug has just grown on us,” she said. “We’ve grown up on these fields. This is where we practiced and learned and grew up as softball players.”

Adds Kelly: “There are so many memories here it’s hard to get them all straight.”

That sentiment is hard to dispute. The truth is, when you’ve been playing together for as long as these three, you tend to accumulate a lot of memories.

Some, actually most, are good memories. Like the time they beat a heavily favored team from Madison as nine and 10-year-olds to win the District 9 Little League championship. Or the time their Junior team of 13 and 14-year-olds came within two games of earning a trip to the Junior League World Series in Washington state. And all of the other wins in all of the other seasons as teammates on various Little League, Junior League, middle school, high school and travel teams.

Some of the memories are not so good, or at least bittersweet, like the 2019 season at Coginchaug, their sophomore season, when the Blue Devils took a 20-6 record into the Class S championship game against Somers, only to come out on the short end of a 4-3 score.

“In the end, we lost the final game, but that was probably the best softball experience I’ve ever had,” Dana said. “Everyone was together, everyone on the team was so into it, so focused on trying to win. I remember listening to the music on the bus rides, winning those first four tournament games in a row .. The whole experience was great.”

DeMartino probably collected enough bittersweet memories in the year between her graduation from middle school and the beginning of her sophomore year of high school to last a lifetime.

After playing with the Boothroyds throughout middle school and the various summer leagues, DeMartino learned that they would not be following her to Coginchaug but would instead continue their softball careers at Mercy High School, a private Catholic school in Middletown.

That news was the bitter. The sweet occurred a year later when she learned the twins were leaving Mercy and enrolling at Coginchaug as sophomores.

“That was one of the best things I’ve ever heard,” DeMartino said. “It’s about as good as good news can get.”

News of the cancellation of the 2020 softball season in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic – which would have been the trio’s junior year – had the opposite impact.

“That was devastating,” Kelly said. “After what had happened the year before, we were really looking forward to getting back into the state tournament.”

“Last year’s team had insane potential,” Dana added. “That might have been the best team we’ve ever played on. Losing that (season) was so disappointing.”

The one person who might miss the three seniors more than they will miss each other is Steve DeMartino, the softball coach at Coginchaug and Amalia’s father.

“I’ve been coaching them and watching them play since their T-ball days and it’s been a great experience to see them come all the way up through the ranks and have so much success,” he said. “To watch them grow and improve – that’s why I coach.”

Through 15 of 17 games played, Amalia DeMartino had team bests in average (.547) and extra-base hits (10, including two home runs), and she recently collected her 100th varsity hit — notable knowing she’s had just three varsity seasons to get there. Kelly Boothroyd was hitting .378 with 18 RBIs and Dana had a .333 average.

Noting that the trio has met with success at every stage of their softball development, Steve DeMartino offered his take on the reasons behind their achievements.

“All three are gifted athletically, but that’s not all of it,” he said. “They each have that drive – that little extra something that makes you lay out for ground balls, or hustle on the basepaths – that extra spark inside of you that can’t be taught and can’t be coached.

“That’s what makes these three so special.”

Coginchaug concluded its regular season on May 20 with a 15-2 record. The high school careers of the three seniors have now boiled down to the Shoreline Conference tournament, with quarterfinal games scheduled for Monday, and the state tournament the following week. Both tournaments are single-elimination events, which means that your participation in either can end in a heartbeat.

“Coginchaug has really grown on us over the years,” DeMartino said. “I’m pretty sure we’re going to miss all of this.”

Dana agreed, noting that the comforting and familiar routine of the high school experience will be hard to replicate on a college campus.

“I know that we’ll still be playing together in the summers, but that will never be like playing together here at Coginchaug,” she said. “Here, we all went to school together and saw each other every day. Here, everyone knows everything there is to know about everyone else. You even get to know each other’s parents.”

Her twin sister added: “Here, we’re all one big, happy family.”

For the record, the Boothroyd “twins” are actually triplets. The third sister, Elyse, does not play softball but is instead an accomplished diver who will be attending Central Connecticut State University in the fall on an athletic scholarship.

In the process of becoming the big, happy family Kelly spoke of, the three longtime teammates have also learned a valuable lesson. There is more to a softball team than bats and balls, hits and runs, even wins and losses.

There is also that special bond that forms as a result of a group of individuals working together to achieve a common goal and the enduring friendships those bonds provide.

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