BRAKETTES WIN NATIONAL TITLE
By Dan Nowak, Register Staff
Stratford Brakettes pitcher Rachele Fico, second from left, celebrates with teammates Lindsey Bright, left, Mandie Fishback, second from right, and Jessica Mouse after beating the St. Louis Saints to win the Women’s Major Softball National Championship on Sunday in West Haven. (Mara Lavitt/Register)
WEST HAVEN — It’s amazing what an elite pitcher, impeccable defense and hitting ability from top to bottom in the order can do for a women’s softball team.
Try a 56-game winning streak to end the season, a 33-0 pitching record, and a women’s national championship.
Pitcher Rachele Fico of Oxford allowed six hits and struck out four, the defense came up with two double plays, and Jessica Serio and Jessica Mouse combined to drive in three runs to lead the Stratford Brakettes to a 4-1 win over the St. Louis Saints in the championship game of the second annual Women’s Major Softball National Championship Sunday at Biondi Field.
Serio went 3-for-4 with an RBI and Mouse hit a two-run single in a three-run fourth inning. Fico’s championship performance followed the perfect game she threw in the winner’s bracket final on Saturday. Fico, who finished the season undefeated (33-0), was named the tournament’s outstanding pitcher and most valuable player.
“In the middle of the game, all I could think about was how much of a team effort we were putting out there today,” Serio said. “We were hitting, played good defense, and Fico was putting together another great pitching performance.
“I really had a good day today, one of my best performances in the entire tournament. To win this championship is so special for all of us.”
After losing the second game of the season to go to 1-1, the Brakettes went 56-0 to finish 57-1. The winning streak was one short of the single-season 57-0 mark set in 1971. This is the first Women’s Major Softball National Championship for the Brakettes, although they have won the Amateur Softball Association National Championship 28 times.
“We had so much fun this year,” 34-year Brakettes manager John Stratton said. “I can’t say enough about this team because winning this title was definitely a team effort. Our defense was remarkable, led by our shortstop (Mandie Fishback) and center fielder Carly Normandin. Serio and Mouse have been hitting the ball well the last two weeks. Those runs they drove home in the fourth inning were key for us.
“I think Rachelle was getting a bit tired on the mound at the end today. But she picked up the slack for us when she had to. She is one of the best pitchers in the nation.”
Kristyn Sandberg gave the Brakettes a 1-0 lead on a sacrifice fly in the second inning, driving in pinch runner Christine DellaVecchia of Stratford from third. In the fourth inning, an RBI single by Serio and two-run single by Mouse made it 4-0.
“It always sets the tempo of the game when your team scores first,” Fico said. “That three-run fourth inning was huge, because a one-run lead at this level is never safe, especially against a good team like St. Louis.
“It’s nice to win the MVP, but it’s an award for the whole team. I couldn’t have had the success I had without my team and the defense I had behind me.”
St. Louis third baseman Mariclaire Rebman, who plays for Yale and will be a senior in the fall, had the first hit for the Saints in the third inning. But she was erased on a double play. The Saints scored with two outs in the seventh inning on an RBI double by Amanda Clack to cut the lead to 4-1.
“After the perfect game, our plan was to be more aggressive today,” Rebman said. “We had some hits today, but back home we don’t play teams as good as the Brakettes.”
After Clack’s RBI double, Fico got Jen Stahlhut to pop up to third base to end the game.
“We were more aggressive today, but those Brakettes are deserving world champions,” St. Louis manager Ed Martz said. “We’re proud of what we did in the tournament. It was a great tournament. But Fico and that team is just so very talented.”
St. Louis (22-10) advanced to the championship game after defeating the New York Freedom 4-3 in the loser’s bracket final on Sunday morning.