Brakettes capture third straight Women’s Major Softball crown

The Stratford Brakettes defeated the St. Louis Saints, 7-0, on Sunday to capture the 2012 Women’s Major Softball National Championship at Frank DeLuca Hall of Fame Field.

It was their third straight WMS title, and the Brakettes closed out the season at 68-3, racing to the finish with an 18-game winning streak.

Manager John Stratton’s club had advanced to the championship contest with a 9-0 victory over the Saints in the winner’s bracket final earlier Sunday at the Short Beach Rec Complex.

The Brakettes won four straight games in the tournament, plus two in pool play last Thursday.

Tournament MVP Denise Denis hit a first-inning solo shot in the championship game to provide the WMS Most Outstanding Pitcher Brandice Balschmiter with all the offense she would need.

Denis went 9-for-15 in bracket play to lead the Brakettes’ offensive juggernaut.

In addition to being presented with the Micki Stratton Award, given annually to the tournament MVP, Denis picked up the Pat Dufficy Award as the tournament home run queen, with three long balls.

She also drove in 11 runs, while collecting two doubles and a triple.

Balschmiter struck out 11 and gave up just three hits in the shutout, as she closed out her season with a 36-2 record.

She earned the Joan Joyce Award by recording 22 strikeouts in a combined 12 innings of bracket play, after sharing the award with teammate Rachele Fico in last year’s championship.

After the homer by Denis in the first, her 13th of the year, St. Louis starter Meg Soultz kept the Brakettes’ bats at bay until the fifth inning.

Becca Carden started the Brakette fifth with a leadoff double and was sacrificed to third on a bunt by Jess Mouse.

Carly Normandin earned a one-out walk and stole second, putting runners at second and third.

Kate Bowen then ripped a double to score Carden and Normandin for a 3-0 lead.

After Alisa Heronema walked, Ashley Waters picked up an RBI base hit, plating Bowen to stretch the margin to 4-0.

The Brakettes put the game out of reach in the bottom of the sixth, as they tacked on three more runs.

With two outs, Mouse reached base on a walk. She came home to score on a triple by Normandin, pushing the lead to 5-0. Bowen followed by launching a two-run blast to close out the scoring at 7-0. It was her third home run of the season.

Balschmiter worked a 1-2-3 seventh inning to retire the Saints and capture the Brakettes’ third straight championship.

Bowen was 3-for-3 in the title game, with a homer, double and four RBIs.

Normandin contributed a triple and a double, a walk and a stolen base, while driving in a run and scoring another.

Award winners Denis and Balschmiter were also named to the 2012 All-Tournament Team in the outfield and at pitcher, respectively.

The two former UMass stars were joined by Brakette teammates Heronema (catcher), Steffi Call (first base), Waters (second base), Bowen (utility), and Fico (pitcher).

Bowen also won the Diane Schumacher Award as the Tournament Batting Queen, going 7-for-10 in bracket play.

The Saints placed four players on the post-tourney honor roll, with Chelsey Carmody (shortstop), Rachael West (outfield), Ashley Hall (utility) and Soultz (pitcher) being named All-WMS first teamers.

The Saints dropped down into the loser’s bracket final after their loss to the Brakettes, where they eliminated the Connecticut Mirage to gain a second chance against the Brakettes.

The Mirage defeated the Lyons, Pa. Spirit 9-6 in the loser’s bracket for their fourth straight win before bowing to the Saints.

Fico notched eight strikeouts in securing the shutout, allowing just two hits over six innings. Fico improved to 22-1 on the season with the decision.

The Brakettes wasted little time in jumping ahead of St. Louis, as the first two batters in the top of the first would reach and score.

Heronema led off with a single and went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Waters, who reached due an error on the play.

Denis ripped a single to score Heronema for an early 1-0 edge. Waters went from first to third on the base hit, and scored on a single by Mandie Fishback for a 2-0 lead.

As it turned out, the two-run first provided Fico more than enough support.

St. Louis pitcher Amanda Zust locked in after the first inning, allowing just a single and a walk over the next three frames. Stratford held the 2-0 advantage through four, as the hurlers traded scoreless innings.

The Brakettes finally got to Zust in the top of the fifth, as they tacked on three more runs.

Heronema led off with her second base hit of the matchup. Waters followed with a walk, putting two runners on with no outs.

Denis lined a double to send Heronema home and Waters to third, extending the lead to 3-0. Waters then raced home on a wild pitch, which also pushed Denis to third.

Call contributed an RBI single to score Denis from third for a 5-0 margin.

Heronema reached on a fielder’s choice grounder with one out in the sixth and advanced on a base hit by Waters.

Denis nailed a triple to score both Heronema and Waters, pushing the lead to 7-0.

Call followed and crushed her 21st homer of the year, which gives her the top two single-season home run totals (31 homers in 2011) in Brakettes’ history.