Pictured: North Branford’s players and coaching staff, with the Shoreline Conference championship trophy — the program’s six straight.
By Paul Augeri
NORTH BRANFORD – For North Branford to win a sixth straight Shoreline Conference softball title this year was going to take more patience than it knew it had.
Thunderbirds coach Nick DeLizio was sick with COVID-19 in April. The team was out of commission for two weeks because of contact tracing, unless you count the players working out on their own.
DeLizio recovered, but when the team got back on the field, it faced a daunting schedule – 13 games in 16 days, including five in the final five days of their regular season. They won 12 of the 13.
“This was a wild one, a wild year,” DeLizio said after the No. 3 seed Thunderbirds beat No. 5 Old Lyme 5-0 on Thursday behind the four-hit pitching of freshman Kiley Mullins. “We were playing with a lot of ifs at the start of the school year and the mystery of what’s going to happen next. Then we heard we’d have a full season, and then we got shut down.
“Winning this one was tremendous. To battle back and to see what these kids accomplished against an awesome Old Lyme team … I can’t believe this is the sixth in a row for the program.”
Mullins, who shut out Coginchaug 1-0 in the semifinals, was unruffled in putting up zeroes against an Old Lyme team that overpowered a good Cromwell team in the quarterfinals and knocked off top seed Haddam-Killingworth 1-0 in the semis.
Mullins allowed two infield singles, a bunt hit and a single up in the middle, struck out six and retired 12 straight Old Lyme hitters between the third and seventh innings.