DARIEN — The Westport U10 softball team had plenty of experience battling Darien over the past several seasons, but it hadn’t come out on top too often.
When it mattered most in the Section 1 title game on Saturday at Darien’s home field, Westport needed to play flawless softball to upset the familiar foe; and did so behind the left arm of Morgan Carnahan.
Carnahan held Darien to three hits in a pitcher’s duel with Darien’s Brooke Romero, and got stellar defensive support as Westport outlasted Darien 2-1 to claim the Section 1 title.
“I think this is a huge upset,” Westport coach Lou Alfero said. “We’ve played this team 20 times in travel in the last three years and we’ve won one game. We came in as the underdog pretty loose; I think they played very loose. There was no tension on that bench at all.”
Westport, which claimed the District 2 title last week, moves on to compete in the four-team state championship tournament beginning on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at Unity Park in Trumbull.
Darien was two bases away from tying the game when Romero laced a single to the outfield and reached second on a passed ball. Carnahan got one more put out on a ground ball to shortstop Grace Alfero.
“We made it real close at the end,” Darien coach Antonio Romero said. “We’re one hit away; I think for a bunch of 10-year-old girls they played a heck of a game.”
Kate McDonald provided the big hit for Westport, an RBI double in the top of the second that tied the game at 1-1. She would later score on an RBI groundout by Chloe Hackett.
“I changed the lineup last night and moved (McDonald) up one spot,” Lou Alfero said. “She had been swinging the bat really well; we didn’t put up 15 runs, but I was hoping this would be a close game.”
Both teams opted to rest their aces during their pool play meeting Thursday as both had sealed spots in the championship game. Darien won 10-1 with Romano and Carnahan well rested.
Both teams put on a defensive clinic which would not have been out of place on the Darien varsity field during the spring high school season. Both right fielders — including Westport’s Olivia Stubbs in the bottom of the fifth — robbed the opposition of an extra base hit in the late innings.
The hosts jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on an RBI groundout by Kate Avitabile. With Darien threatening for more runs in the frame, it ran into an out on a walk that would have put runners on the corners.
“I think in the first inning we played our game,” Romero said. “We played aggressive in our base running; I think both pitchers settled in and usually good pitching stops good hitting.”
Darien — the District 1 champions — came into the game averaging double digits in runs and hits prior to running into Carnahan. Carnahan struck out five batters and retired 15 in a row between the end of the first and two outs in the sixth.
“(Carnahan) was amped up, she knew it was a big game,” Alfero said. “She had two or three really quick innings; we had a couple of first pitch groundballs. Our defense was absolutely incredible today.”
The 10U softball team continues on the road to states! The team is now playing a 3 game sectional run against Bethwood/Orange and Darien - the championship teams from their districts.
The girls were amazing on Tuesday against Bethwood/Orange with a 10-0 shut out! There was an amazing in-the-park homerun by Francine Stevens, several big hits by Dylan Halky and spot-on pitching by Morgan Carnahan and Grace Alfero! The fielding, hitting and pitching were incredible and the win was a team effort!
The 10U team plays a tough Darien team tonight at Darien HS at 5:45 - wish them luck and come on out to see them!
Action from the U10 District 2 softball final between Fairfield and Westport on Friday, July 15th, 2016. Photo: Ryan Lacey/Hearst Connecticut Media / Westport News Contributed
FAIRFIELD — Showing more emotion between pitches than most hurlers show in an entire game, Westport U10 All-Star pitcher Morgan Carnahan wore her heart on her sleeve in a tightly-contested District 2 final.
Her left arm made the most noise of all, shutting down Fairfield’s lineup for a second time in the tournament. Westport still needed extra innings to prevail, though.
Dylan Halky provided the game-winning hit, a two-run single in the top of the seventh that broke a 3-3 tie and helped send Westport to the District 2 championship with a 6-3, seven inning win over Fairfield on Friday at Dougiello Field.
Carnahan went the distance, striking out seven and allowing just four hits. She was named MVP of the tournament as Westport allowed 14 runs in six tournament games.
“(Carnahan) throws hard and is focused,” Westport coach Lou Alfero said. “She pitches better with the lead like most girls; she stayed focused today. There was no way we were going to give up a three run lead (with her in the circle). She’s a good teammate and was leading the cheers out there.”
Grace Alfero began the seventh with a shot to the outfield and reached second base. An infield single by Carnahan set the stage for Halky, who drove both in.
Fairfield jumped out to a 2-0 lead on back-to-back RBI singles by Katie Gallagi and Delaney Sullivan in the bottom of the second. After falling 11-1 to Westport in pool play, Fairfield was nine outs away from the title with a 2-1 lead after three innings.
“Both teams fought hard,” said Fairfield coach Jim Andretta. “We struggled a little with our pitching mid game, but we battled through. I thought we would be on the winning end of it, eventually.”
Westport battled back with one run in the third and two more in the fourth to take a 3-2 lead. Olivia Stubbs delivered a two-strike, two-out, two-run single to finally break through after Westport left several runners on base in the second and third innings.
Fairfield responded to tie the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI groundout by relief pitcher Anna Gedacht. Gedacht and Carnahan pitched spotless fifth and sixth innings to force extras.
Both Fairfield and Westport went 3-1 in pool play and cruised to the final behind lopsided wins.
“It was a great season, I’m real proud of the girls,” Andretta said. “We played really well, I can’t believe what a big difference from last year to this year; it was a tremendous difference.”
Westport now moves on to the state tournament, which begins Tuesday in Darien. Halky and Grace Alfero are the two holdovers from last season’s U10 team that claimed a state championship.
“I’m happy to be there, I don’t know what happens next,” Lou Alfero said. “I assume it will be these types of games; I’m ready to go one more round with these girls.”
It took an extra inning, but Westport’s U10 District Team topped Fairfield 6-3 Friday to win the District 2 championship at Dougiello Field in Fairfield. Westport now goes to the state championship, which opens Tuesday in Darien. Pictured (l-r, back row) Coach Bryon Stevens, Manager Louis Alfero, and coach Todd Halky; (middle row) Delaney McGee, Morgan Carnahan, Sophie Hill, Chloe Hackett, Grace Alfero, Dylan Halky, Kate McDonald, Grace Burg, and Amelia Gura; (bottom row) Carley McGarry, Francine Stevens, Olivia Stubbs, and Ava Harvey
Westport 10-11 softball rallies to win Connecticut State Championship
EAST HARTFORD — The Westport U11 softball team hadn’t faced the adversity all summer it encountered when it trailed by two runs in the bottom of the sixth in the state championship game Monday. The composure was there as if the group was used to rallying.
The 6-4 deficit with three outs remaining brought out the best in the seasoned Westport club, which combined a pair of extra-base hits and hustle plays into an incredible rally to deliver a championship.
Eva Vincini crossed the plate to deliver the winning run as Westport rallied to top Union City 7-6 and walk off with the town’s third state championship in four years. A handful of players were holdovers from the U10 group that also lifted a state championship last year.
“It was tough,” said Westport coach Neil Gabriele, who was assisted by Eric Emmert and Steve Vincini. “Down two going into the last inning; we pulled the girls together and said we’re in this. And they performed under pressure, it was phenomenal. Eva had a great hit and Lauren drove the ball.”
Vincini socked an RBI double to tie the game at 6-6 after starting pitcher Natasha Taubenheim led off the frame with a double to center field and later scored on a wild pitch. With two outs and Vincini waiting on second, Lauren Hassell hit the ball to the Union City shortstop, who threw the ball toward first base. The ball didn’t stick in the glove of the Union City first baseman, and the celebrations began at home plate when Vincini touched the plate.
Westport led 4-1 through two innings and appeared to be coasting to another win in a summer full of crooked numbers. Union City then drew six walks in the final four innings and used aggressive running on the basepaths to get back into the game and take a 6-4 lead on a two-run single in the top of the fifth by Riley Best.
Taubenheim — who had 18 strikeouts in a game this summer — struck out 10 Union City batters.
“She throws hard and throws strikes,” Gabriele said. “She makes it tough on the hitters; she’s just been phenomenal.”
Westport (6-0) went 3-0 in winning District 2 and won all three state tournament games. Westport defeated Torrington 11-1 and Union City 9-5 in the previous two games, and had it lost to Union City Monday would have faced a rematch the following day.
That wouldn’t be necessary after its display of resilience, and another banner was brought home to Westport.
“It was just a total team effort,” Gabriele said. “Our lineup, one through 12, everybody contributed. That was the biggest part of this team; everybody played good defense and got key hits and that’s what made this team really special.”