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Waterford ends Avon’s run in Class L tournament with an 8-0 victory

Waterford players gather at home plate to wait for Anna Dziecinny after she hit a home run in Monday night’s Class L semifinal win over Avon. More photos from the game

WEST HAVEN, June 6, 2022 – The outstanding play this spring of senior pitcher Jackie Pengel and catcher Amanda Hasler has been energizing for the Avon High softball program.

Sparked by the two Division I recruits, the Falcons won a team-record 19 games, played in the Central Connecticut Conference tournament for the first time and advanced to the semifinals of the CIAC Class L tournament for the first time since 1976.

“They brought enthusiasm back to softball in the community,” Avon High coach Michael Mihalek said. “We saw Little League (players in town) coming out and watching and asking for their autographs. It was great to see.”

No. 6 Avon needed more than excitement Monday night against No. 7 Waterford in the Class L semifinals at West Haven High. Waterford High pitcher Maddie Burrows struck out nine and tossed a no-hitter as the Lancers eliminated the Falcons, 8-0.

Avon (19-6) committed six errors and should have been charged a seventh by the official scorekeeper. Pengel, who will play at Syracuse next year, struck out 12 and allowed eight hits but she gave up just two earned runs.

“We gave it a run but at the end of the day, Waterford is a more complete team than we are,” Mihalek said. “Other than Southington, they are the most complete team we’ve faced this year. Their pitching was great. They put a bat on the ball. They made plays in the field. My hat is off to them. I hope they do well in the finals.”

Avon third baseman Kayla Jette tags out Waterford;’s Maddie Burrows , who was trying to advance to third base. More photos from the game

Burrows jammed her thumb early in the game and was hit in the back of her shoulder with a hard pitch from Pengel in the sixth inning. But Burrows finished the game.

“She is such a competitor, she wasn’t coming out this game,” Waterford coach Andrew Walker said. “She is just a phenomenal player in all aspects of the game. It was an opportunity for people to see how good she is in the (pitching) circle tonight and she was lights out. Dynamite.”

Avon earned a spot in the semifinals thanks to Pengel and Hasler, who will play at North Carolina State next fall. Each hit 14 home runs this season. Pengel threw a no-hitter, eight 1-hit games and fanned more than 300 batters.

And for five innings, the Falcons played with the Lancers. Waterford was well aware of Pengel and prepared to put the ball in play any way they could with bunts and slap hits to force Avon to field the ball.

With two outs in the top of the fourth inning, Waterford’s Anna Donahue reached on an infield error. Donahue scored when Anna Dziecinny’s single got behind an Avon outfielder for a 1-0 lead. Waterford took advantage of another two errors in the fifth to extend their lead to 2-0.

In the fifth, Kayla Jette coaxed a walk and moved to second base on a successful sacrifice bunt from Liz Jerger. But when Jette hesitated trying to scamper to third base on a wild pitch, Waterford catcher Emma Marelli threw Jette out at third base.

Waterford’s Emma Podeszwa slides into home before Avon catcher Amanda Hasler can get the ball down to tag her in Monday’s Class L semifinal in West Haven. More photos from the game

Waterford broke through in the sixth inning with another two runs thanks to a RBI double from Donahue and a RBI double from Dziecinny.

The Lancers added four unearned runs in the seventh with a RBI triple from Donahue (2-for-4, double, triple, two RBI) and a home run from Dziecinny (3-for-3, double, home run, three RBI) over the center field fence.

“We knew were facing a tremendous pitcher and the success rate of making contact would be challenging,” Walker said. “We knew we had to put the ball on the ground. We had to bunt, we had to do some slap (hitting)  and it was productive for us. It allowed the girls to see a lot of pitches and then they were productive (in the later innings) with some great swings.”

Avon had a few moments. They had a double play in the fourth inning. With a runner on first base, Marelli grounded to Pengel, who threw to first base for the out. Burrows was on first base and tried to get to third base but Avon first baseman Michalina Centofanti fired a strike to Jette at third base for the second out.

Waterford advanced to their 11th state championship game and first since 2019. The Lancers will play top seeded Masuk, who has won four titles in a row.

Waterford 8, Avon 0
At West Haven

Waterford (22-4)      000  112  4  — 8-8-0
Avon (19-6)                000  000  0  — 0-0-6
Maddie Burrows and Emma Marelli; Jackie Pengel and Amanda Hasler; WP: Burrows; LP: Pengel (17-5); 2B: Anna Donahue (W), Anna Dziecinny (W); 3B: Donahue (W); HR: Dziecinny (W)

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 35 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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