NAUGATUCK - Seymour and Torrington, the two best softball teams in the Naugatuck Valley League, met Thursday for the league tournament title and played the closest of games.
One hit, one play and one groundout led to one run, and that was all Seymour needed in a tight 1-0 victory over Torrington in the title game at Naugatuck High School.
The Wildcats (23-0) earned their second straight title and their sixth in eight years under coach Ken Pereiras while the Red Raiders were in uncharted territory. With the experience edge, Seymour found a way while Torrington didn't play intimidated and earned some valuable experience even if it did have to get over some initial nerves.
"They came in with confidence and the knowledge of what it is like to play in this situation and I had some of my younger girls that were shaking in their boots," Torrington coach Maryann Musselman said. "They were so nervous, some of our key players."
The Raiders didn't play nervous, they just played a good team and weren't able to come through with the key hit when they needed it. Torrington left five runners on base and had two on in the third but couldn't scratch out a run against Seymour ace Kelly Ferris (19-0).
Seymour was just barely able to get to Torrington's star pitcher Sydney Matzko.
Katie Petroski drove in the lone run of the game in the bottom of the fifth on a ground out to short. Stephanie Willette led off the frame with a single to left and advanced to second on an error.
Matzko recorded a strikeout bit Willette then reached third on a throw back to the mound after a pitch. Willette hesitated and then broke for third, beating a throw from Matzko.
"The catcher sort of ignored me on the play," Willette said. "I just did what I had to. I took a lead and she didn't look me back and I thought I could get to third and was able to."
The extra base proved to be crucial.
Petroski put a weak ground ball in play to short that Mollie Bartles fielded and threw to first for the second out of the inning. Willette scored on the play and it proved to be the game-winner.
Torrington went down swinging though as Brittany Anderson led off the sixth with a shot to deep center that Sarah Molin tracked down and likely kept in the park. In the seventh Bartles flew out to deep right and Baylee Vinisko ripped a shot to deep left-center that Molin ran down to save the day.
"We knew it was going to be a tough, close game," Ferris said. "I have to give all the credit to my outfielders, they made some great plays. They tracked down some balls that I don't think I could have gotten to."
The outfield made plays but Ferris was equally good on the mound. Not an overpowering type, the lefthander was able to work the outside corner and had enough movement to keep Torrington off balance for a majority of the afternoon.
"We didn't make the adjustment early enough at the plate," Musselman said. "We wanted to get up in the box and shorten up our stride a bit. We were able to make that adjustment late and hit a few deep balls but we did it a little too late."
The loss was tough but still worth it in a number of ways, chief among them being that Torrington is likely to play another game or two like this down the road in the state tournament and now they know what to expect.
"We wanted to win today but the loss really doesn't mean anything other than we get a smaller trophy than we wanted," Musselman said. "This is great for us going into states. We're happy with where we are as a team and happy to have a game like this heading into the state tournament."
Torrington is expected to be the fourth seed in the Class L state tournament and will get one and possibly two home games before the tournament goes to neutral sites.