Pictured: The Shoreline champs entered the tournament as the fifth seed. They beat defending Class S champion Coginchaug, top-seeded Haddam-Killingworth and No. 3 Old Lyme to win it all. (Photo by Paul Augeri)

By Paul Augeri

CLINTON – North Branford had the bases loaded and a one-run lead in the top of the first inning against Old Lyme when Bella Hills stepped to the plate for her first at-bat of the Shoreline Conference championship game.

With a strong breeze blowing out to left field, Hills drove a fastball from Wildcats ace Emma Bayor that, one way or another, seemed sure to clear the bases. Except that left fielder Anna Eichholz tracked the tailing shot to her right at the last second, snared it and collided with the fence.

Old Lyme wouldn’t be so fortunate the next time Hills gripped the bat.

The senior turned on a first-pitch fastball from Bayor with two outs in the third and crushed it well beyond the fence, a two-run blast that gave the Thunderbirds a three-run cushion and propelled them to a 7-2 victory for their seventh straight Shoreline crown.

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