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Senior captain Tori Heaphy tossed a complete game when the East Haven softball team defeated Branford by a 14-1 score in its first game in two years on April 10. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain Sam Franceschi and the Yellowjackets broke out the bats when they notched a 14-1 road win over Branford in their 2021 season opener. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Kayla Rosario is one of six senior captains who will lead the East Haven softball squad into battle on the field this season. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Two years removed from a state final appearance, senior captain Carly Cordova and the Easties have some major playoff aspirations for the 2021 spring campaign. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
For the first time in two years, the athletes on the East Haven softball team were able to put on the blue and gold and hit the diamond for some high school competition last week. Entering his 27th season as the Yellowjackets’ head coach, Ed Crisafi saw his squad start off the season with a 14-1 road win versus Branford on April 10.
The last time that East Haven took the field, team played in the Class L state championship game in 2019. Although the Easties didn’t play in 2020, many of the team’s athletes competed with their travel teams over the summer and then played in the DiamondZone’s fall league last year. With his team missing out on an opportunity to compete last spring, Coach Crisafi said that the 2021 edition of the Yellowjackets is excited to be back out there and has its sights set on making another deep postseason run.
“We were excited. Most of my girls played in the summer with their travel teams. Even though we lost our season, they had that to look forward to,” Crisafi said. “Most of them were back from the 2019 team that went to the final. If we had played last year, we’d have seven starters back. They were disappointed they didn’t have a chance, but when they realized they were coming back this year, it made them much more excited.”
East Haven will be led by six seniors during its spring campaign. The Easties’ seniors are third baseman Kayla Rosario, center fielder Carly Cordova, pitcher/shortstop Tori Heaphy, second baseman Sam Franceschi, right fielder Kayla Goodrich, and first baseman Brooke Clancy. Heaphy was an All-SCC First Team selection as a sophomore in 2019.
Since this senior class has so much experience playing together, East Haven’s coaching staff named all six of the seniors as the team’s captains.
“We decided to have all six seniors be captains. They have been together since their middle school days,” said Crisafi, whose coach staff includes Ricky Narracci, Jenna Gaudioso, Kristina Serio, and Jeff Crisafi. “It’s a close-knit group. They’re all quiet leaders. We just decided to pick all six of them.”
East Haven’s starting lineup additionally features three juniors in catcher Magdalena Barthel, who made the All-SCC Second Team two years ago, along with shortstop/pitcher Emilee Bishop and left fielder Jilien Ayala. All three players have been starters since they joined the program. Coach Crisafi is expecting each of them to continue improving and become cornerstones for the team.
The Yellowjackets’ sophomore class includes Autumn Clancy, Arielle Dupree, Gianna Bernovich, Lily Gagnon, and Adriana Franceschi. The two freshmen on the varsity squad are Miranda Consiglio and Gianna Fowler.
Coach Crisafi said that every player on the varsity roster will be given ample chances to contribute for the Easties. With everyone on the team already being so close to one another, Crisafi felt that the Yellowjackets made a smooth transition back to the field.
“The fact they’re so close made it easier. Seven of them played volleyball together in the fall. It’s a group that has always been together,” Crisafi said. “They’re close friends. They hang out together. There’s never any drama. They’ve been doing everything together since 6th grade. It made the transformation from not playing at all to having a season so much easier.”
With numerous starters returning to a team that made the Class L state final two years ago, Coach Crisafi knows that other teams are going to have the Yellowjackets circled on their schedule this season. With high expectations on the table, Crisafi feels confident that East Haven can once again make some playoff waves in 2021.
“Everyone knows we have seven starters back. We’re going to have a bull’s-eye on our back. With that many people back, we’re expecting the best,” said Crisafi. “We’re hoping to get to the Class L final again and hopefully win it. We want to do well in the SCC, win our division, and make the tournament. It’s always the goal. It never changes.”
The Easties started their quest on a positive note by posting a 14-1 win over Branford in their season opener last week. The Yellowjackets scored two runs in the top of the fourth inning before Branford answered with a run in the bottom half. Holding a one-run edge, East Haven exploded for eight runs in the fifth inning and four more in the sixth on its way to the lopsided win.
Heaphy got the start on the mound and pitched a complete game for the Easties, allowing three hits and one run, while striking out 10 with no walks. Adriana Franceschi had two singles and a triple with two runs scored and an RBI, while Sam Franceschi had a single and a double to go with two runs and two RBI. Barthel had a double and a triple with two runs scored and three RBI. Autumn Clancy and Fowler added two singles apiece.
After the Yellowjackets had to sit out an entire year, Coach Crisafi was happy to see them get back in action last week. The fact that East Haven started its season with a win made the feeling that much sweeter.
“It was nice. We have been having great days of practice, but toward the end, the girls are just getting anxious,” Crisafi said. “They wanted to get out and play an opponent. It felt good to be back out on the field.”