Sophia Barbour is savoring the final days playing this summer with the Connecticut Angels travel softball team. There is one more tournament remaining, then she is taking a trip to Spain before beginning her freshman year at Penn State.
Barbour is uncertain about her future with the sport — it is possible her final competitive game is imminent. Barbour thinks she will play college club ball and, because of her age, would be eligible for one more season with the Angels.
But if this is it, Barbour will be going out on top, after helping to lead the Darien softball team to the FCIAC title weeks ago. It was the culmination of fulfilling a dream that started when she was a freshman, making a brief appearance as the Blue Wave lost to St. Joseph at Sacred Heart University in the final.
“Freshman year I was watching from the sideline and remember it was an amazing feeling,” Barbour recalled. “The prospect of making it back to the final was so exciting, and then seeing the stands fill up, it was a different feeling. Four years ago there I didn’t know what it was. The energy in the stadium there is like none other.”
This was a balanced season in the conference — Trumbull finished in fourth place during the regular season and ended up winning a state title — with many strong pitchers. Darien was the second seed and form held when it met No. 1 Westhill in the final. The Blue Wave held a 6-3 lead in the bottom of the seventh but the Vikings loaded the bases with two outs.
“This was my last time to win anything for the team,” Barbour said. “I was like, this is the most pressure I’ve faced in my life. Usually I can remember what pitch I threw and how I threw it and what happened. I just remember it going up in the air and I don’t remember where it went up. It was high but I knew it wasn’t a home run, thank god. When it went up my heart just stopped and then KP catching it is a feeling I will never forget ever.”
Kristen Picard made the play at second base and Barbour and the team’s four other seniors finally had an elusive postseason championship.
Barbour pitched the last two seasons, first biding her team and learning from Erika Osherow, one of the premier players in league history, who was supposed to redshirt as a freshman at Virginia and instead earned the starting job.
“I remember meeting Erika when I was not in high school yet,” Barbour said. “I was at a clinic and she was there. She was definitely a role model for me and not just with her skill but her personality. She was like no other. She was very warm and welcoming. She was a leader by making us so close together and I learned that aspect from her.”
Barbour started at first base as a sophomore because she has been one of the team’s top power hitters.
“I love not only pitching and getting out of an inning but going to the dugout knowing I could do something,” Barbour said of her offensive contributions.
Barbour faced a difficult decision last fall: continue her softball career at the Division II or III level or attend a large school. A raw day at Penn State secured her choice.
“I had my eyes set on certain schools for academics and I was looking at big schools,” Barbour said. “I like the sports life at them in general. When I went to Penn State and to a football game on the grossest day of the season, I was like no one is going to be at this game, it will be so lame, and the stands were filled and I said I want to be a part of this. Part of a big family. That was the feeling I got from that school.”
Barbour cherished her last season with the Blue Wave and is again in the same situation with the Angels, whose coach, Art DeFilippis, was also her high school pitching coach.
“I never thought I could have a love for a coach like I do for Artie,” Barbour said. “It has always been a father-daughter type thing. It has always been tough love. There has never been any sugarcoating, he tells everything to me straight.”
While Barbour cannot say with certainty that she will take the mound again after this summer, she has a strong feeling she will never fully retire from softball.
“I will always be a part of it,” Barbour said. “Maybe after school I will be an assistant or coach Little League because I love the game.”