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Mitchell sends Coventry softball back to Class S title game

MERIDEN – Top pitcher Elizabeth Mitchell led No. 2 Coventry back to the Class S title game with 14 strikeouts, a pair per inning, as the Patriots defeated No. 6 Old Lyme 8-2 in Monday’s semifinal at the Dunn Sports Complex.

The reigning state champions, 23-2 this year, meet No. 9 Holy Cross in the title game Saturday at UConn’s Burrill Family Field.

“We graduated five very, very good seniors, we weren’t sure what this year would bring – Liz’s return is always important as a pitcher – but the freshmen that came in… they did a great job all season,” That said Coventry coach Jeff LaHouse.

Mitchell, a senior who plans to play at the Division I level for Saint Peter’s next year, pitched Coventry to a 12-0 win over Coginchaug in the second round, then a 6-5 victory over Immaculate on Friday and had no doubts about winning Monday to step in. night. She finished her third complete game of the tournament with just four hits, two walks and one earned run.

“She’s a force. Her biggest thing isn’t the physical field as you might think, it’s the determination. It’s in her. She brings it every game,” LaHouse said.

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Longtime Lyme pitcher Emma Bayor, a committed Marist, got her Wildcats on the board first with an RBI single in the top of the first inning, but Coventry immediately responded with three runs in their half of the inning. Mitchell, batting cleanup, hit an RBI single to take the lead and then came in to score the third run on a bunt by sophomore Brooke White.

“I’ve been playing real softball since I was 9, so I don’t feel any pressure anymore,” Mitchell said. “Kind of like on the bus for a while before the game when we all talk about it, but as soon as I step onto the field everything disappears and I’m just happy to be here.”

Mitchell allowed a bloop single in the second, but held the Wildcats without another hit over the next four innings. At the plate, she drove in the Patriots’ fourth run in the third frame. Junior right fielder Charlotte Wesoloskie tripled toward the left field foul pole in the fourth and scored on a single by freshman Emma Vertucci to make it 5-1.

Coventry came into the game planning to rely on bunts, which helped move runners on the base paths and caused a number of Old Lyme fielding errors, allowing the Patriots to score three more runs to end the sixth.

“We had a game plan here for the bunts, we watched a little bit of film and thought we could have success on the bunts, and we did,” LaHouse said. “We were able to put a lot of pressure on them right away, and it paid off.”

Mitchell recorded her 13th and 14th strikeouts in the top of the seventh and then quickly turned to pick up the runner at second base, who reached on an error, to end the game.

“It means everything, honestly,” Mitchell said of returning to the final game. “We work so hard that we walk onto the field and the nerves disappear. It doesn’t even matter. We are ready to play against anyone who wants to stand in our way.”