The Stratford Brakettes came out of the loser’s bracket to capture the championship of the 10th annual Women’s Major Softball National Championship tournament, winning three games Sunday at Frank DeLuca Hall of Fame Field.
They needed to defeat the previously-unbeaten and defending-champion St. Louis Saints twice and that’s exactly what they did by scores of 15-7 and 7-3.
St. Louis (23-6) had sent the Brakettes in the loser’s bracket with a 6-5 victory in the winner’s bracket final in a game that ended just before 1 a.m. Sunday.
“It was a great win for the Brakettes,” veteran manager John Stratton said. “Winning three consecutive games in that heat and humidity wasn’t easy, but I knew we had the hitters to make it happen.”
Stratton also had rookie pitcher Raeanne Geffert (7-1) of Seymour, who pitched 10 innings of no-hit softball and won two of those three games. Geffert started the triumphant surge with a 7-0 no-hitter against the third-place Lyons, Pa., Spirit Sunday afternoon.
The WMS championship was the eighth for the Brakettes — who now have won 36 national titles, including 28 in the long-defunct ASA Women’s Major. They finished the season with a 47-4 overall record.
What made the championship even more impressive is the fact that veteran hurler Brandice Balschmiter, who was honored in pre-tournament ceremonies last Thursday because she was retiring, wasn’t around for the last three games after suffering a serious injury in the winner’s bracket final late Saturday night. While taking her warm-up pitches in the second inning, she fell to the ground from excruciating back pain. She was taken to Bridgeport Hospital and admitted. The 12-year veteran regained feeling in her right leg Tuesday.
“That was a crushing blow to our team. We were really flying high and had the momentum going,” Stratton said. “St. Louis took advantage of it and built a 6-2 lead. We battled back and cut it to one run in the seventh before they won.”
Geffert replaced Shelton’s Kaysee Talcik (15-0) in the bottom of the fifth inning in a 3-3 game and retired all nine Saints batters she faced.
Singles by Theresa Kane and Denise Denis, who broke out of a hitting slump with three hits in the finale, put runners on first and second against Saints ace Madi Norman. Jolie Duffner sacrificed the runners up a base before Alex Heinen’s RBI single to give the Brakettes a 4-3 lead. Briana Marcelino’s grounder to third advanced Heinen and then Lauren Pitney delivered the key hit with a lined triple down the left-field line for a 6-3 lead. Denise Denis added an RBI single in the top of the seventh. Kane also had three hits, while Val Suto and Heinen both had two.
In the first championship game, where the Saints need only one victory to take the title, the Brakettes reached loser Bailey Lange and Abigail Deane for 21 hits, including home runs by Marcelino, Pitney, and Gabby Laccona. Suto, Denise Denis and Marcelino all drove in three runs and Pitney and Laccona two each. Suto and Duffner led the attack with four hits each while Heinen, Pitney and Laccona each had two.
Talcik scattered seven hits through six innings and struck out three. Norman, Britt Krodinger and Kay Massa all homered for the Saints. Geffert allowed only one base-runner in the win over the Spirit and struck out seven. Kane and Pitney both had two hits and Marcelino belted a two-run home run.
The Brakettes dominated in the awards presentation. Marcelino won the Pat Dufficy Home Run Award with three, the Allyson Rioux Defensive Award, and the Micki Stratton Most Valuable Player Award. Geffert was the Joan Joyce Most Outstanding Pitcher Award recipient. Fairfield’s Brenna Martini of the NYC Havoc won the Diane Schumacher Batting title with a .667 average (12-for-18).
The All-America team consisted of: catchers Katilyn Caleen (Spirit) and Massa (Saints), first base Heinen (Brakettes), second base Bri Garber (Nook Gold), third base Martini (Havoc), shortstop Marcelino (Brakettes) and Sammy Bunch (Saints), outfielders Suto and Kane (Brakettes) and Lange (Saints), utility players Duffner and Nikki Cuccio (Havoc), and pitchers Talcik, Geffert, Jenn Shellhammer (Spirit) and Norman (Saints).