NFA finally beats Cheshire, reaches state final

STRATFORD — It was supposed to the moment that broke them.

Playing against a team it had always fallen to in recent seasons when it mattered most, it finally appeared that Norwich Free Academy would get the best of Cheshire in the state tournament. But when holding a 4-1 lead in the fifth inning, the odds suddenly tilted against the Wildcats despite the numerical advantage thanks to a key injury.

It was only a matter of time before Cheshire would turn on its magic rallying powers and vanquish NFA once more.

But junior Sophia DiCocco wasn’t having any of that.

DiCocco jogged in from left field after ace Bailey Comeau was forced to leave the game after being hit in the arm on a line drive, battled through each Cheshire batter and sent the No. 8 Wildcats to the Class LL final with a 4-2 win at a DeLuca Field.

“That could have been the game, but we’re a year older,” NFA coach Bryan Burdick said. “I think that’s the difference; we have six seniors here, Bailey included.

“These kids have been playing deep into the season for four years now, but everyone is getting used to that mentality. It could have been very simple for that game to get away from us in that moment and thankfully we’ve had those tough games all year to prepare us for adversity.”

Relief pitching is not on the list of normal game-day responsibilities for DiCocco, but it was required in an instant when Mia Juodaitis hit a shot off Comeau. She got all the key outs, though, allowing just two hits.

“I knew there could be a possibility if something just happened to go wrong, it can always happen,” DiCocco said. “I was ready to go in; I kept it in the back of my mind … When I first got in I was nervous but after the first batter I started getting more into the routine and felt more confident.”

With the top of the Cheshire lineup up to start the bottom of the seventh, DiCocco didn’t blink. She got three quick outs to start the celebration and ended the No. 4 Rams’ stellar season at 23-4.

“I asked the seniors why they were crying,” Cheshire coach Kristine Drust said. “And it was nothing to do with losing, it was all about playing softball with this group of girls for so long and just having the type of team we’ve had the past four years was really special.”

NFA — which knocked off top-seeded, previously undefeated South Windsor in the quarterfinals — had fallen to Cheshire three of the last four years in states. Last year was a 6-5 decision for the Rams.

“It felt so good because they kept knocking us out,” DiCocco said. “We finally got back at them. … It’s been amazing and it shows how strong our teams is to bounce back.”

A three-run fifth inning turned the game around for NFA, which fell behind 1-0 on a home run from Juodaitis. The bottom of the Wildcats order started the rally, broke a 1-1 tie on a RBI groundout from Hailee Schrader. Comeau followed with a two-run single to push the advantage to 4-1.

“I think we had some opportunities there but there were a couple of adjustments up to bat that we just didn’t make,” Drust said. “That’s black and white; we didn’t make those adjustments. (DiCocco) was throwing harder but straighter.”


Bailey Comeau, NFA. She was stellar in the circle before getting injured, and delivered the key hit that turned out to be the game-winner.


“Coach Drust is one of the best, if not the best coach in the state,” Burdick said. “I love coaching against her because it makes you to really have your team prepared to do battle and go a full seven and not have any lapses.”, @ryanlacey11


NFA001 030 0 — 4 8 1

CHESHIRE001 010 0 — 2 7 1

Batteries: NFA—Bailey Comeau, Sophia DiCocco and Brenna Comeau; C—Bri Pearson and Jade Barnes.