WINDSOR LOCKS, May 26 – A year ago, the East Granby softball team ran the table in the North Central Connecticut Conference with an undefeated regular season campaign (20-0) to win a conference championship. It was the first league title by the Crusaders since the girls basketball team nearly 20 years earlier in 1996.
But there was a sense of unfinished business, especially in the NCCC, after the Crusaders were upset in the NCCC Tournament by Suffield, 4-3.
This spring, East Granby and Ellington each finished a game behind Granby and their outstanding sophomore pitcher Kari Marks, who captured the NCCC championship for the fourth time in the last six years. It just added additional fuel to East Granby’s drive.
In a duel of two outstanding pitchers, East Granby junior Genna Hartman struck out 14 and limited the Bears to just four hits as the Crusaders won the NCCC Tournament Thursday at Veteran’s Field in Windsor Locks with a 2-0 victory over Granby.
Marks struck out 11 but the Crusaders were able to get eight hits and scored a pair of runs in the fourth and fifth innings.
“This is so incredibly satisfying,” East Granby first baseman Lily McCarthy said. “I’m so happy. We’ve been working so hard all year for this. Honestly, our dreams just came true. This was one of our goals at the beginning of the season and I’m so happy we finally accomplished it.”
Challenging non-league competition helped secure the victory in the tournament for East Granby. Less than a week ago, the Crusaders were shutout by the No. 1 team in the state, undefeated Fitch-Groton, 7-0. In late April, East Granby dropped a 1-0 decision to Thomaston, which advanced to the Class S final last June.
“We’ve been playing better competition so we will be ready for better competition like this,” East Granby coach Carl Ferrara said. “We knew we had to get ready for this tournament and the next tournament (Class S). You can’t be better unless you play the best.”
The lessons learned? “It taught us that we have to come together and go out there and swing the bats at strikes to keep things moving,” Ferrara said. McCarthy called it a quick bat when you get up to the plate.
It was McCarthy who got it started for East Granby in the fourth inning with a leadoff single to right field. She moved to second base on a one-out infield single that Sabrina Barry beat out. With two outs, McCarthy have the Crusaders a 1-0 lead on a RBI single to center field.
McCarthy was in on the action again in the fifth inning. Hartman led off the inning with a single and moved to second base with a stolen base. She moved to third on a successful sacrifice bunt from Val Winalski. Hartman scored on a two-out RBI single by McCarthy to right field for a 2-0 lead.
East Granby played defense, too. Granby’s Caitlin Kopf reached first base thanks to an error and was replaced by pinch runner Mackenzie Dowd. The next batter, Erin Henebry laid down a sacrifice bunt down and beat it out as Dowd raced around second base, trying to grab the extra base. McCarthy tried to fire the ball to third base to get Dowd but the ball went into left field.
But freshman Ekaterina Sands was backing up the play – as she should – and fired the ball home to catcher Kaelyn Ludwig, who had plenty of time to tag out Dowd, who was trying to score on the throwing miscue.
McCarthy was 2-for-3 at the plate for the Crusaders while Ludwig was 2-for-4.
In a 10-4 semifinal win over Ellington, all nine starters had at least one hit for the Crusaders. McCarthy was 3-for-5 with a single, double and triple. Ludwig was 3-for-5 while Caitlin Daleb had a triple and Nicole Gosselin had a home run.
Now, East Granby turns their sights back toward the Class S tournament. A year ago, they advanced as far as the semifinals before falling to eventual state champion Holy Cross, 2-0.
East Granby (18-4) opens up Class S play on Tuesday when they host Sacred Heart (8-12) at 2 p.m. in first round action. The Crusaders could meet up with top-seeded Holy Cross again in the semifinals but there are plenty of innings to be played before that begins.
Meanwhile, the administration has the task to finding space in their trophy case for the new, tall NCCC championship trophy brought home by the Crusaders.
NOTES – The All-NCCC softball team was introduced before the championship game.
Canton: Emma Plourd; Coventry: Kelsie LaHouse, Maggie Ziko; East Granby: Jenna Hartmann, Val Winalski, Kaelyn Ludwig; East Windsor: Sarah Fisher; Ellington: Ariana DiCioccio, Danielle Markowski, Brianna Deland; Enfield: Jessica Maier; Granby: Kari Marks, Jess Storch, Sarah Fede; SMSA: Rianne Mayer; Somers: Katryna Dukehart, Alexandra Gerschowicz; Stafford: Shannon Stuart, Hannah Davis, Claire Margiatto; Windsor Locks: Hannah Farr, Ashley Papapietro
East Granby 2, Granby 0
At Windsor Locks
East Granby (18-4) 000 110 0 – 2-8-1
Granby (19-3) 000 000 0 – 0-4-0
Genna Hartman and Kaelyn Ludwig; Kari Marks and Caitlin Kopf; WP: Hartman; LP: Marks; 2B: none; 3B: none; HR: none
2015 NCCC softball
x-Granby 15-1 18-2
Ellington 14-2 17-3
East Granby 14-2 16-4
Stafford 12-4 12-5
Coventry 11-5 13-7
Windsor Locks 13-7
Somers 8-8 11-9
Suffield 8-8 11-9
East Windsor 4-12 7-13
Enfield 4-12 6-14
SMSA 2-14 5-15
Bolton 2-14 4-16
Canton 1-15 3-17
East Granby 10, Ellington 4
Granby 9, Stafford 3
East Granby 2, Granby 0
Recent NCCC Tournament championship games
2016: East Granby 2, Granby 0
2015: Granby 26, Suffield 0 (5)
2014: Suffield 17, Ellington 6
2013: rained out
2012: Granby 9, Suffield 2
2011: Suffield 12, Ellington 4
2010: Ellington 6, Somers 5
2009: Suffield 10, Ellington 0