Pictured: Catcher Dana Boothroyd hugs her sister, winning pitcher Kelly (26), after the final out of Coginchaug’s 5-2 upset of top seed Notre Dame-Fairfield on Monday.
By Paul Augeri
STRATFORD – Coginchaug is headed back to the CIAC Class S championship game and a rematch against the team it lost to in 2019 after knocking off No. 1 seed Notre Dame of Fairfield 5-2 on Monday night at DeLuca Field.
Senior right-hander Kelly Boothroyd, who reaggravated a right Achilles injury on a swing in the third inning, worked through all seven, holding the Lancers (20-3) to five hits, walked three and struck out eight.
The Blue Devils collected 11 hits almost every which way, with white-hot shortstop Amalia DeMartino putting up her second straight four-hit game, leadoff batter Ava Marenna going 3 for 4 with two RBIs and reaching in all five of her plate appearances, and Natalie Ness contributing three hits and two runs scored from the eighth spot in the order.
And the team played excellent defense. Center fielder Jackie Kelly made a sliding catch in the first inning with a runner on for the third out, putting an early charge into the Blue Devils that seemed to carry them through to the final out.
“I told the girls before the game that to play a No. 1 seed and to beat them, I needed every player to do their part,” Coginchaug coach Steve DeMartino said. “It’s not just one person that’s going to win a game like this, it takes a team.
“Everyone did their part. Kelly was fantastic on the mound. (Senior catcher) Dana Boothroyd was calling that game. The one and two batters again, Ava and Amalia, were hot at the top. When our one and two batters hit, we do well. We moved the runners with the bunt. We made a huge catch on the field in the first. All those little things make a team win.”
Coginchaug (19-3), the fourth seed, now gets another crack at Somers, a 7-2 winner over Shepaug in the first semifinal at DeLuca. The Spartans won the 2019 title 3-2 after rallying for two runs in their final at-bat. Saturday’s final starts at noon at West Haven’s Biondi Field.
“There are only five of us now that went to that final and only three of us played two years ago (she and her sister and DeMartino, with Marenna and Amanda Case on the roster that year),” Kelly Boothroyd said. “The younger kids are crazy excited about it and I can’t blame them. I felt the same way when we first went.”
Notre Dame freshman Judy Tarczali, who pitched every inning for the Lancers this season in winning 20 games, struggled with her control. She allowed four walks, hit two batters and allowed at least one base runner in every inning (Coginchaug left 13 on in the game).
Tarczali also got hurt fielding a hard-hit comebacker by Amanda Case to end the fourth inning, after the Blue Devils scored twice to take a 3-1 lead.
“She sprained her finger fielding that one-hopper and spent the last (three) innings icing her hand,” Notre Dame coach Jeff Bevino said. “You’ve got to give her a lot of credit.”
And then Bevino heaped praise on Boothroyd for her outing and on Coginchaug for its all-around play.
“She was phenomenal. She really did a great job,” he said. “She mixed up her pitches and really had us off-balance. Early on, the first three runs they scored, they didn’t hit the ball hard once. But, that’s opportune softball. They never gave us a chance. They made all the plays that they were supposed to make.”
Coginchaug got on the board first with more two-out hitting. Tarczali walked Allison Strang to start the inning, and after getting two outs she hit Marenna with a pitch. That created yet another opportunity for DeMartino, who dropped a double just inside the line in right field to score Strang.
The Blue Devils got a scare in the top of the third when Kelly Boothroyd swung and dropped to one knee, unable to get out of the batter’s box on the grounder she hit to short. She walked off under her own power and was able to continue pitching, but said she felt soreness the rest of the night.
“My summer of sophomore year I strained my Achilles and have had on-and-off issues, and never really let it heal,” she said. “That’s because I can’t not play softball. It’s been better, but coming out of that box I stepped wrong and felt it give a little bit. It definitely hurt.”
Notre Dame got the run back in the third on senior Mack Stone-Folmar’s shot to center, her 19th home run of the season.
Coginchaug strung together a bunch of great at-bats in the fourth to take the lead. The first two hitters got on — Ness with a single and Alayna Mariani on a hit by pitch. Marenna hit into a force on Ness at third before DeMartino singled — her eighth straight hit. DeMartino is 11 for 13 in three tournament games.
After Dana Boothroyd fought off several two-strike pitches, she connected for a fly ball deep enough to score Mariani.
“Of course, I would love an actual hit, but more importantly was getting the RBI,” Boothroyd said. “That’s what I needed to do in that situation. I was really happy with that and so excited coming off the base and seeing Alayna score.”
The inning appeared over when Kelly Boothroyd swung at a ball that bounced in the dirt for strike three, but catcher Jocelyn Vargas failed to throw to first and Boothroyd reached.
With the inning extended and the bases full, Jackie Kelly worked a walk to plate Marenna for a 3-1 lead.
The Blue Devils tacked on a run in the fifth when Ness, who doubled with one out, was doubled home by Marenna (DeMartino’s 7-for-7 streak ended with an inning-ending lineout to the fence in left), and what Bevino called a “killer” run in the seventh on Marenna’s RBI single for a 5-1 lead.
“They dinked us and dunked us, they walked, they did whatever they had to do tonight (to win),” Bevino said.
Notre Dame threatened in the seventh, reaching on an error and a walk and scoring on Riley Marko’s RBI single with one out. Steve DeMartino ordered an intentional walk of Stone-Folmar to load the bases before Boothroyd struck out Tarczali and got Izzy Ingersoll to pop to short to set Coginchaug up for a shot at winning its first state championship since 2012.
“We can’t lose again,” Dana Boothroyd said.