FAIRFIELD – It was just one run, one first-inning run against a team that had won 26 of its last 27 games and had scored 10 runs the night before.
And yet the one run the St. Joseph High School softball team produced a minute or two into today’s FCIAC championship game against Trumbull seemed like so much more.
“I told the girls before the game that we had to be aggressive and execute and today we did,” St. Joseph coach Jeff Babineau said after his team upset Trumbull 6-0 at Sacred Heart University for its fourth FCIAC crown in five years. “Hannah (Hutchinson) got us going and I think it had an effect.”
Hutchinson led off the top of the first with a triple down the left-field line. Freshman Maddie Fitzgerald followed with an RBI single to right and five pitches into the game the No. 3-seeded Cadets (18-4) had a 1-0 lead.
“I tip my cap to St. Joe’s, they came out and were aggressive,” Trumbull coach Jacqui Sheftz said. “When we have fallen behind and have to come back this season we’ve been able to do it, but it was different today. Once they got up, I think we tried to do too much.”
Top seed and defending Class LL state champion Trumbull (21-2) was only able to muster three hits off winning pitcher Payton Doiron, while the Cadets used that first-inning run to build confidence against Trumbull ace Emily Gell.
“Getting the early lead was helpful to me,” Doiron said. “It was a little cushion, but it helped me relax and stay focused.”
St. Joseph didn’t stop hitting after the first inning, although the way Doiron was pitching, it could have. Led by MVP Kayla Giacobbe (three hits) and Fitzgerald (two hits, three RBIs), the Cadets collected 11 hits on its way to the surprisingly easy victory.
“We wanted to jump out of the gate and score early and that’s what we did,” said Fitzgerald, a sophomore and one of four underclassmen in the Cadets’ lineup. “Then we said let’s score every inning and keep it up.”
St. Joseph did score in five of the first six innings and that took some pressure off Doiron.
“(Doiron) pitched phenomenally,” Babineau said. “That’s a great offensive team and there were no quality at bats against her. She was very composed for a sophomore.”
Trumbull, which was trying to go a perfect 18-0 in the FCIAC, with its only loss to non-conference foe Joel Barlow, got the ball out of the infield twice. The Eagles had two infield hits before Mackenzie Bruggeman grounded a single into centerfield with two outs in the top of the seventh.
“(Doiron) threw well today but we didn’t make any adjustments up at the plate,” Sheftz said. “We had an emotional win last night (10-6 semifinal over Stamford) and when that happens you need to come out the next day with double the emotion, double the intensity. We didn’t do that.”
Giacobbe’s RBI double made it 2-0 in the third inning before Allie Petronchak doubled in the third run in the top of the fourth. Giacobbe’s single keyed the fifth-inning rally when the Cadets went up 4-0 on a Trumbull throwing error.
In the sixth, St. Joseph broke the game open after singles by Petronchak and Hutchinson. Fitzgerald followed with a long two-run double to right-centerfield, making it 6-0.
Trumbull’s only threat came in the bottom of the sixth when it loaded the bases on an infield single, an error and Doiron’s lone walk of the game. But Doiron induced two dangerous hitters, Delilha Destefano and Courtney Fairfield, to foul out to the catcher to end the threat.
The championship was a bit unexpected for St. Joseph as the Cadets start just two seniors and have just four juniors.
“We’re in nice shape for the future,” Babineau said.
Meanwhile, Trumbull started two seniors and three juniors. So don’t be surprised if a year from now these two long-time rivals are playing for a championship again.
Aside from Giacobbe and Fitzgerald, Hutchinson and Petronchak each had two hits for the Cadets. Bruggeman, Maggie Coffin and Ava Dunn had hits for the Eagles.
NOTES: The win was St. Joseph’s seventh in a row while Trumbull’s 12-game winning streak ended. … Trumbull beat St. Joseph 5-4 at Trumbull on May 2. … The Cadets beat Fairfield Ludlowe 3-1 in yesterday’s semifinal after edging Danbury 3-2 in Wednesday’s quarterfinals. Trumbull beat Fairfield Warde 7-0 in the quarterfinals before getting past Stamford yesterday. … Darien won last year’s FCIAC title. Trumbull’s last conference championship came in 2010.