FAIRFIELD, Conn. — The Westhill (Stamford) Vikings softball team had been untouchable this season. With 22 straight wins and 16 shutouts, including 11 straight through the conference quarterfinals, the Vikings seemed destined to become just the second team in history to three-peat as FCIAC softball champions.
Alex Puglisi and the Trumbull Golden Eagles apparently didn’t read that script.
Puglisi, the Eagles' 5-foot-1 pitcher, fired a four-hitter at the state’s top-ranked team as Trumbull claimed the FCIAC crown, 3-1, Thursday at Sacred Heart University. Puglisi, who was named the tournament MVP, struck out nine and added an RBI single to the offense.
"This is a blue-collar team that gets the max out of everything they do," Trumbull head coach Charlie Judge told the Trumbull Times. "I’m proud of all the players and especially happy for our seniors."
It was the fifth conference softball championship for Trumbull, which last won in 2005 as the second of two straight titles. Trumbull also won in 1983 and 1987. Westhill has won seven league championships and was gunning to join the Norwalk Bears as the only school to three-peat in softball. The Bears won four straight from 1978 to 1981.
The Vikings had been in control of all their games this season, and hadn’t even trailed in a game until Trumbull scored the first run of the title tilt in the top of the fourth. Puglisi and Westhill ace Jen Joseph were perfect through the first three innings, and Puglisi struck out seven in the first three frames.
In the top of the fourth, Puglisi led off with a walk before Veronica Alicea sacrificed pinch-runner Jillian Noto to second. Two batters later, Sarah Wesley lined a single to right field, plating Noto with the first run. Puglisi, who lost a no-hitter to Westhill during the regular season, gave up her first hit to the Vikings when Brittany Horn doubled in the bottom of the fourth. Puglisi escaped the threat by retiring the next two hitters.
In the fifth, the Eagles loaded the bases with no outs on a hit by Erica Quinones, a bunt single by Brette Therriault and an infield single by Sarah Filmer. Joseph got a force out at the plate and a pop-up for the first two outs, but Alicea was hit by a pitch to force in a run and make it 2-0. In the bottom of the sixth, Westhill’s Kate Brainard reached on an error and advanced on a wild pitch by Puglisi. Horn later singled and Allison Macari hit a sacrifice fly to drive Brainard home, cutting the deficit to one at 2-1.
Puglisi then got the final out on a strikeout to retain the lead. In the top of the seventh, Therriault reached on a single and went to second on an error. A bunt by Filmer pushed Therriault to third and she scored on an infield hit by Puglisi to make it 3-1. Joseph led off the bottom of the seventh with a base hit, but Puglisi retired the next three hitters to nail down the championship.
2. Ludlowe baseball gets school’s first championship: Ludlowe (Fairfield) captured the school’s first championship in any sport when the Falcons baseball team topped the Greenwich Cardinals, 7-4, in the FCIAC baseball final Thursday night at The Ballpark at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport.
The Falcons’ key inning was a five-run third, which included a booming three-run home run to left-center by right fielder Tom Nagy. Nagy, a second cousin of former MLB pitcher Charles Nagy, was named the tournament MVP. The fifth-seeded Falcons (18-5) had a roller-coaster regular season, opening with nine straight wins before losing five of their next six. Ludlowe steadied the ship down the stretch, winning the last six games of the season before beating No. 4 Wilton 12-7, and No. 8 Westhill 6-3, to reach the final.
"I told the boys that we were a different team than the one that lost five of six at midseason," head coach Keith O’Rourke told the Fairfield Sun. "I’m proud of the boys. We held off a very good Greenwich team."
Second-seeded Greenwich (18-5) followed a similar path, as the Cardinals won their first 11 before dropping three of four games. They went 4-1 down the stretch and in the tournament beat No. 7 Ridgefield 7-1 and No. 6 St. Joseph 13-4 to reach the final. Ludlowe first got on the board in the second when Mike Kochiss drove in Luke Clifford with a two-out hit.
In the big third inning, Max Senew singled and Billy Malone drew a walk before Nagy hit his blast out of the park to make it 4-0. Zach Garoffolo then reached on an error and scored on a double by Alex Wright. Wright later scored on a squeeze bunt by Clifford, and the Falcons led, 6-0. Greenwich got one run back when Mike Dunster hammered a home run to center in the bottom of the fourth.
The Cardinals scored one run in four consecutive innings, but were never able to sustain a rally against Ludlowe pitchers Taylor Brown and Kevin Lambert. The Falcons added an RBI single by Rob Ferrera in the fourth. They were held scoreless the rest of the way, but had more than enough of a lead to secure the title.
3. Eight is great for Staples volleyball: The sight of the Staples (Westport) Wreckers wearing championship medals around their necks has become a annual rite of spring for nearly a decade. This season, the Wreckers received a strong challenge from the Darien Blue Wave, but eventually pulled through for a 3-1 victory in the FCIAC boys volleyball final Friday at Fairfield-Ludlowe High School.
After edging ahead for a two-point win in the first set, the Wreckers took advantage of Darien’s mistakes to win the second frame by seven points. The Wave then grabbed an early lead in the third set and held off a late Staples rally to win. It marked just the second time this season that the Wreckers had surrendered a set.
Staples, however, was within sight of its prize and dominated the final set to win 25-23, 25-18, 23-25, 25-17. Staples was led by senior captain Tom Prenderville, along with Evan Gaumert, Mike Fitzgerald and Steven Denowitz.
Darien received huge nights from juniors Austin Cockerill, Calder Billhardt and Graham Hotchkiss. The Wreckers have now won eight consecutive conference championships and carry a 99-match win streak into the state tournament.
4. Wilton gets tough in FCIAC tournament: When the Wilton Warriors girls lacrosse team lost senior star Amy Drummond to an ACL injury midway through the spring season, it could have signaled the end of the Warriors’ title hopes. Instead, the Warriors are FCIAC champions for the second time in three years.
Wilton built a 7-0 lead in the first half and controlled the pace from start to finish as they topped the New Canaan Rams, 12-8, in the FCIAC final Friday at Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk.
The fourth-seeded Warriors (13-5-1) knocked off the state’s top two teams during the tournament, as they beat No. 1 Darien (14-4), 17-16 in triple overtime, in Monday’s semifinals. Wilton trailed Darien, 7-0, but stormed back with a 10-1 run to take a 10-8 lead in the second half. The Blue Wave came back and the lead flip-flopped throughout the remainder of regulation and into overtime.
Darien’s Ann Fucigna scored for a 13-12 lead with 1:05 remaining, but Wilton’s Tessa Howard answered with 45 seconds to play, forcing overtime. In the first OT period, Casey Pearsall scored first for Wilton before Darien captain Cali Ceglarski scored two consecutive goals for a 15-14 Blue Wave lead. Alexi Farmakis notched the equalizer with a strong run through the middle as the first OT ended at 15-15.
In the second OT, each team scored once — Wilton’s Tegan Helms on a free position and Darien’s Taylor Hardison with nine seconds remaining. The third overtime was sudden-death and Darien had the first chance before losing the ball near the Wilton cage. Rachel Lowrie came up with the ground ball and got it to Howard, who raced in toward the net, drew a foul and then scored on the free position for the victory.
The final wasn’t quite as dramatic, as the Warriors scored the first seven goals and held No. 2 New Canaan (15-3) scoreless for the first 15:24 of the first half. Lowrie and Howard each had a hat trick during the opening run. The Rams made a 4-0 run to cut the deficit to three with three minutes remaining in the first half, but Pearsall added a late goal for an 8-4 lead at halftime.
In the second half, the defense again controlled the game, keeping New Canaan off the scoreboard for the first 15:57. Pearsall and Lowrie both scored during that time, putting the Warriors ahead, 10-4. The Rams tired to make another push with back-to-back goals from Anjalie Christie and Sarah Mannelly, but it was too little, too late as Wilton went on to win by four goals.
Lowrie and Howard had four goals apiece for the Warriors, while Pearsall scored twice and Farmakis and Helms each scored once. For New Canaan, Christie scored four goals, Mannelly had two, and Erin Fessler and Liz DeTour each had one.
The Rams enter the State Division I tournament as the No. 2 seed and will host a first-round game against either Southington or New Fairfield on Thursday, June 3, at 3 p.m. Wilton heads into the DI tourney as the No. 11 seed and will host a play-in game against No. 22 Branford on Tuesday, June 1, at 5 p.m.
5: Cards ace New Canaan for FCIAC boys lacrosse crown: The Greenwich Cardinals made Scott Bulkley a champion in his first year as head coach when they edged the New Canaan Rams, 5-4, in the FCIAC boys lacrosse final Friday at Brien McMahon in Norwalk.
Greenwich jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the second quarter before New Canaan rallied in the second half. The Rams couldn’t net the equalizer, however, as the Cards took the second league title in program history. Greenwich grabbed a 3-0 lead in the first quarter on goals by Alex Moser, Eric Foote and Pete Cabrera. Cabrera and Moser then added two more goals to open the second, as the Cards went up 5-0 with 6:59 to play in the half.
Scott O’Brien put New Canaan on the board with 5:09 remaining when he caught a feed from Todd Bratches and scored to make it 5-1. The Rams came to life in the third quarter when Joe Costigan scored at 4:53 and Ian Knechtle scored at 7:22 to make it a 5-3 game.
Costigan then fired a perfect pass downfield to Henry Eschricht, who glided in on the left side and beat Greenwich goalie Daniel Feeney low to cut the deficit to one at 5-4 with 1:40 remaining in the third quarter. Despite holding the advantage in possession time during the fourth quarter, however, the Rams were unable to score again as the Cardinals held on for the 5-4 victory.
The game featured dramatic momentum shifts, as the Cardinals scored five goals in the first 17:01, but none over the final 30:59. New Canaan, meanwhile, was scoreless for nearly 19 minutes to start the game, and had just one goal in the first 28:53. The Rams then exploded for three goals during a span of 5:27, but went cold over the final 13 minutes.
Feeney made six saves for Greenwich, including one final stop on a low shot by Patrick Ryan with 25 seconds remaining, while New Canaan goalie Tom Carey had a solid game with eight saves.
Dave Stewart, the Sports Editor of the New Canaan (Conn.) Advertiser, is a MaxPreps.com writer and photographer. He may be reached at 203-966-9541 or at email@example.com.