By Kyle Brennan, Citizen’s News
Beacon Falls athletes find success at St. Joseph, Notre Dame
BEACON FALLS — They’re both All-State athletes. They’re both headed to play at Bentley University. And they’re both from Beacon Falls.
Payton Doiron, who starred in softball at St. Joseph in Trumbull, and Zach Laput, who stood out in basketball at Notre Dame in West Haven, decided to forge their own paths outside of their hometown high school — and their decisions paid off.
Doiron dabbled in other sports in her youth, but she said that softball always stood out — especially after she stepped into the circle.
“After a few years of playing many different positions, I decided to give pitching a try,” Doiron said. “I ended up loving the challenges and pressures of pitching, as well as being involved in every play.”
As she approached the end of her time at Long River Middle School, she pondered whether to stay the course and head to Woodland or pursue a different path.
“I knew St. Joe’s would provide me with a great education and had an accomplished softball program,” Doiron said. “I spent a lot of time weighing my options, but in the end, I found St. Joe’s to be the perfect fit for me. It was tough entering a totally new environment and leaving my friends, but I thought that this type of change would provide me with new opportunities and help me grow as an individual.”
Laput’s decision wasn’t as difficult — “I always knew I was going to Notre Dame,” he said, noting his father, Adam, is an alumnus and longtime faculty member — but he originally planned on focusing on a different sport.
“Baseball was my main sport throughout middle school, but then I started not liking it as much,” Laput said. “I wanted to play for Coach (Jason) Shea — he’s what made me want to play basketball.”
Laput wasn’t concerned about making friends, either, since he had attended Notre Dame’s summer camps over the years and knew plenty of people headed to the all-boys school. He was much more focused on whatever it would take for him to get time on the varsity hardwood in one of the state’s top basketball programs.
“I was basically just at school all day working out,” said Laput, who regularly woke up at 4:30 a.m. during his career. “I worked out before school every day from 5:30 to 7:30 with some of my teammates, and then I’d stay after school until 5:30 or 6 working out.”
That effort earned him a starting spot in his sophomore season. Over his three seasons as a starter, the Green Knights went 60-13 with two Southern Connecticut Conference championship game appearances. During those first two years as a starter, Laput teamed up with fellow Beacon Falls native Connor Raines, who now plays at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
“It was really cool because we felt like we were representing our town together,” Laput said. “It was great playing with Connor and I’m really happy he chose to come to Notre Dame. I was always trying to convince him to come in middle school.”
Doiron also had to put in extra work to earn a varsity spot when she arrived at St. Joseph, which boasts one of the state’s perennially strongest softball teams.
“Entering the program, I knew it would be difficult to earn a spot on the team,” Doiron said. “To work toward my goal of becoming a starting pitcher, I began strength training and practicing several times a week. I also spent a lot of time learning about strategy and other mental aspects of the game.”
Her hard work earned her the starting pitching job as a freshman. That season, she helped lead the Cadets all the way to the Class M semifinals, where they lost to eventual champion Seymour. In 2018, Doiron led St. Joseph to a 23-4 record with both the Class M and Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference championships. She spun a five-hitter in a 5-2 win over Griswold in the state final.
In 2019, Doiron twirled a no-hitter to beat Trumbull in the FCIAC championship game and helped the Cadets to a 23-0 record before they were upset by East Haven in the second round of the Class L tournament.
Her resume through her first three seasons earned her a chance to play in an international tournament this summer, although those plans have since been scrapped due to the pandemic.
“There were several players from high schools across the state that were going to be playing (in Italy) for America’s Team, but unfortunately it was canceled,” Doiron said.
The cancellation of all Connecticut high school sports starting March 10 hit Laput and Doiron particularly hard. Laput felt as though his Green Knights, with a 21-2 record and the No. 4 seed in the Division I boys basketball tournament, had championship potential.
“That was devastating, especially since we just got upset by one point in the league championship (against Wilbur Cross),” Laput said. “Our team was extremely together this year and we really just wanted another shot.”
St. Joseph would have been shooting for an FCIAC three-peat and redemption in the state tournament.
“It was devastating for all of us, but especially for the seniors to realize we wouldn’t get another chance to play in a St. Joe’s uniform together again,” Doiron said. “We all worked really hard this offseason and had great team chemistry, so it’s really disappointing that we never got to see the results of it.”
The duo will hopefully get plenty more chances on the court and field when they arrive at Bentley.
“I was going to wait to commit until after the season, but since the season ended early, I decided I would just commit early,” said Laput, who plans on studying business management or finance and also considered Saint Anselm, Pace and Adelphi. “I knew Bentley was where I wanted to be, especially because of the academics and how the other players on the team are.”
“I decided to go to Bentley University because it reminded me a lot of St. Joe’s in the way that both the academics and athletics are challenging, promising and will provide me with several new opportunities,” said Doiron, who is leaning toward an economics/finance major and chose Bentley over Springfield. “I also love the campus and the city of Boston, so it seemed like a great fit for me.”