In a season reminiscient of The Bad News Bears, the Westport Jaguars captured the majors division (6th and 7th grade) Girls Softball Tournament Championship on Sunday with an 11-1 victory over the Stratford Pirates. The team, which started the season 0-5-1, and entered the tournament as the number 5 seed, defeated in order the Stratford Lime Light (4 seed), Westport Leopards (1 seed) and Stratford Pirates (2 seed) to capture the title at Meyer Field, sending their proud fathers home with a special Father's Day present.
In the final game, the Pirates pitcher came out throwing strikes and shut the Jaguars down 1-2-3 in the first. After the Pirates pilfered a run in the bottom of the first, it looked like the Jaguars were in for a real battle. But in the top of the second the Jaguars' bats came alive, led by a double by catcher Hannah DiBalsi, followed by another double by power hitter Emma Finn (Emma Finn, and her twin sister Kaila, are new to Westport, having recently moved to town from New Jersey. They are a welcome addition to the Westport Softball Program).
Tess Rubin, who has a knack for making contact, then singled in Emma Finn with a sharp hit to center, and Nicole Burns then scored Rubin with a sacrifice. Sonia Klein, who reached on a bunt and was later involved in a wild run-down, scored the fourth and final run of the inning on a sacrifice by Marnie Adelkopf.
The Jaguars never looked back, building the lead with another run in the third (a two-out special manufactured by Colby Siegel's base running), three in the fourth (led by a booming triple by Emma Finn and solid hits by DiBalsi and Rubin), two in the fifth (highlighted by a sharp line drive to center by Lilly Weidhaas that scored Morgan Whelan and Kaila Finn), and an insurance run in the sixth as Emma Finn scored her third run of the game by singling, stealing second and advancing on two consecutive sacrifices by Rubin and Burns.
Defensive highlights included two gems by Kaila Finn at shortstop, who at times covered the whole left side of the infield by herself as the Jaguars employed an over-shift to the right side, and a smooth back hand stab by Rubin at second, as well as a clutch play by Siegel at shortstop who, with a runner on first, fielded a bloop over the mound and flipped the ball to Weidhaas, who was covering second base all the way from her position at third. Weidhaas also made a nice play on a throw across the diamond from third to nail a runner at first by half a step.
But as much as this game was about the Jaguars' offense and great fielding, it was about their pitching and catching. Weidhaas, who had eight strikeouts and gave up only two hits over four innings, had her third strong outing of the tournament, limiting the Pirates' loot to a measly one run. Burns then came in to slam the door in the 5th and 6th with two scoreless innings in which she kept the Pirates off balance. And through all that, nary a ball got by catcher DiBalsi, who repeatedly fired warning shots down to first base, just begging the Pirates to walk the plank by venturing too far off. Not a single girl stole on DiBalsi over the course of the tournament.
The Jaguars finished the season 10-8-1, which was a 10-3 record after their 0-5-1 start. "Despite our rough start, the girls never packed it in, they just kept getting better and better,'' coach A.J. Weidhaas said. "Girls like Morgan Whelan, who had never even played the sport before, and Rebecca Oestreicher, showed tremendous development, and by the end of the season stretched our lineup with gritty at-bats and heads-up play. We employed an aggressive style of play, particularly on the base paths, that required tremendous attention and focus by the girls. This is the most coachable group of girls I have had the pleasure of working with."
Following the game and the receipt by the Jaguars of the Championship Trophies from League Commissioner Mike Lustbader, the team held an awards ceremony at which the following awards were handed out to the players by Coach Weidhaas, Coach Andrew Klein and Team Manager Amy Bauer:
Marnie Adelkopf: Best Bunter; Nicole Burns: Most Improved Pitcher; Hannah DiBalsi: Best Catcher/Throwing Arm; Emma Finn: Best Power Hitter; Kaila Finn: Best Infielder; Sonia Klein: Best Outfielder; Rebecca Oestreicher: Most Improved Hitter; Tess Rubin: Best Contact Hitter; Colby Siegel: Best All-Around Player; Lilly Weidhaas: Best Pitcher; and Morgan Whelan: Most Improved Player.
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