Softball: Retuned Trumbull returns to Class LL title game

The Trumbull High softball team has hatched a new set of Eagles that have bought into coach Jacqui Sheftz’ team-first yet still be personally accountable set of values.

This process brought Trumbull its first state title a year ago — and the locals earned a return trip to the finals on Monday night with a high anxiety but satisfying 6-5 victory over Cheshire High at West Haven’s Frank Biondi Field.

"It’s just who we are,” said Sheftz when asked about her team twice bouncing back from one-run deficits to knock off No. 3 seed Cheshire (21-3). “It doesn’t faze us. We play with a lot of confidence and that allows us to maintain our composure. It’s Trumbull softball.”

Trumbull (24-2), the No. 2 seed, will play No. 5 seed Amity High (21-3) in the championship game on Saturday at 4 p.m. at West Haven High's Frank Biondi Field.

The Spartans defeated top-seeded Southington, 6-5, with a five-run seventh-inning rally in the first game of the twin bill.

All six of Trumbull’s runs crossed the plate after two outs were in the book.

None of the Eagles’ 11 hits was more important that Maggie Coffin’s two-run double to dead center on a 3-2 pitch from Cheshire right hander Natalie Amato.

“It was nerve-wracking,” the junior said of stepping to the plate down 5-4. “Our energy was good all game. Cassi (Barbato), Ava (Dunn) and Meghan Geraghty got on base in front of me. This was a team win.”

Mackenzie Bruggeman pitched into the sixth inning, before Emily Gell came on in relief to get the final four outs.

“Mac did her job and wasn’t rattled a bit,” Sheftz said of her freshman, who because of a stress fracture suffered by Gell was put in a tough position of starting a state semifinal. “Today, I wanted to see what Mac could give us. I went with my gut on when it was time to bring in Emily. We have confidence in both our pitchers.”

Gell was also put in a difficult position.

A starter, she had come out of the bullpen to secure Trumbull’s 3-1 quarterfinal win over Newtown. In the semis, she was again called on to take to the pitcher’s circle this time again one out and the tying run on first.

“I had to stay loose,” she said of her demeanor in the pen. “When I came in I had to hit my spots. My teammates are one hundred percent supportive, so really it was stress free. It’s what we do — put our heads down and pull through.”

Gell struck out the first batter she faced. After a walk to Brianna Pearson on a 3-2 pitch, she retired Kinsey Ratchelous on a fly ball to Alexa Adinolfi in center.

After setting down the first two batters in the seventh, Gell was reached for consecutive singles by Mia Juodiatis (who had two walk and three hits) and Brianna Floyd.

Gell struck out No. 3 batter Ariana Perlini to secure Trumbull’s spot in the final.

“I’m very proud of this team,” Sheftz said. “We graduated six seniors and to be playing again for a state championship says a lot about the culture here at Trumbull High. The players (from last year) took on different and bigger roles.”

Cheshire scored two runs in the top of the first on two hits and two walks, before Bruggeman got a comebacker to leave runners on the corners.

The Eagles answered with four two-out hits in the bottom of the frame to take a 4-2 lead.

Coffin walked, and went all the way to third on Julia Huzi’s sacrifice bunt, sliding in safely with a hook slide using her left hand.

Delihla Destefano, who had seven assists from her third base position, brought her in with a single.

Courtney Fairfield and Barbato singled to load the bases for Dunn, who singled to right field to plate a pair.

Trumbull stole a run here, as Dunn broke off first and got into a rundown long enough for Barbato to cross home before Dunn was tagged out.

Cheshire regained the lead at 5-4 in the fourth.

Emma Watkinson singled and Jade Barnes walked to turn the order over to Juodiatis, who singled to score Watkinson despite an on-target throw from Adinolfi in center field.

Bruggeman got the next two batters, but courtesy runner Sohpia Vagts scored on Perlini’s fielder’s choice grounder.

A walk put runners on first and third for Alexis Hemstock, who lined an RBI single off Huzi’s glove at shortstop.

Barbato fought off a tough two-strike pitch and then pulled a single to right to open the Trumbull fourth.

Dunn looked to sacrifice, but got a single when a player slipped fielding the ball.

Bruggeman ripped a liner to Juodiatis at shortstop, who turned it into a 6-6-3 double play.

The Eagles kept plugging away.

Geraghty singled to bring Coffin to the plate for her go-ahead double.

Cheshire had two hits around a Bruggeman strikeout and a fine play by Destefano in the fifth.

Coffin had a double, a walk, two RBIs and a run scored.

Dunn had three hits and two RBIs.

Barbato had two hits and scored a run.

Destefano, Bruggeman, Fairfield, Adinolfi and Geraghty had base hits.