Kenney, Cromwell shut out Shoreline rival North Branford to win Class S softball championship, first state title

STRATFORD — When Cromwell was 10 games into its season, coach Angelo Morello knew his team was special.

Cromwell finished the regular season with the best record in the Shoreline Conference, but after an exit in the semifinal round his attention turned to the ultimate prize, a state championship.

“From Day 1, I knew this was a special group,” Morello said. “It started back in February, and it carried on into the spring. When we were 9-1, I could tell this was going to be a special season.”

With ace Lily Kenney on the mound, the No. 1 seed cruised to the Class S championship to face its conference rival and seven-time league champion North Branford. On Saturday, Kenney pitched Cromwell to a 3-0 victory and its first state title in program history.

“This was a great team effort,” Morello said. “Lilly Kennedy dominated once again. You have to think about this, four postseason games and just one run allowed. She dominated from the start, and she finished strong. I am at a loss for words, this is what I envisioned when I got here.”

Kenney pitched a complete game shutout, allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out 11 North Branford batters.

“It means so much, I am so grateful to be with this team and to have the opportunity to do what we all love so much,” Kenney said. “We had an extra hunger knowing we might not ever get another chance at this again.”

Kenney’s performance on the mound earned her the tournament MVP award, as she buckled down to allow just one baserunner after a first-inning leadoff walk.

“I have never pitched in a state championship before and definitely not in front of this many people,” Kenney said. “I was really nervous in the beginning, but I realized my teammates had my back and I couldn’t do it all myself.”

North Branford sophomore pitcher Kylie Mullins matched Kenney, throwing up zeros for the first three innings.

In the bottom of the fourth, Cromwell struck first as junior Malena Signorello connected for a two-run home run, giving the Panthers all the run support they would need.

All three of Cromwell’s runs were scored via the long ball, with the third being a sixth-inning solo shot by sophomore Victoria Wiatrak.

“Cromwell played really well today,” North Branford coach Nick DeLizio said. “Hats off to Lily Kenney, she kept it low and away and we kept biting the bait. Offensively they didn’t miss a mistake, Kiley was great beyond the home runs.”

After a slow start to the season, North Branford came alive late, claiming its seventh straight Shoreline Conference championship before reaching the state final for the second season in a row.

“If you said after our start that we would be here at the end of the year, I would say we had a lot of work in front of us,” DeLizio said. “We caught fire once again at the end of the season and it was awesome to come out with a Shoreline championship for the seventh year in a row which is unheard of and carry that into the state tournament.”

The state title game between conference rivals carried extra weight for Cromwell, which had defeated North Branford twice in the regular season.

“We were No. 1 in the conference, we didn’t win it but this is the ultimate prize right here,” Morello said. “DeLizio does a great job over there, still hasn’t lost a Shoreline tournament game. They are tournament ready, but our girls were battle tested throughout the year.”; @AldamWill

Cromwell 3, North Branford 0

NORTH BRANFORD     000 000 0 — 0 1 1
CROMWELL       000 102 X— 3 5 0

Records: Cromwell 23-2; North Branford 20-8

Batteries: C—Lily Kenney (W) and Victoria Wiatrak; N—Kiley Mullins (L) and Adriana Hills.

HR: C— Malena Signorello, Victoria Wiatrak.