NAUGATUCK — Taking over for the best pitcher in Naugatuck softball history couldn’t have been an easy task. But after Alexa Marucci’s high school career came to a close in last Wednesday’s Class LL second-round loss to Westhill, it’s safe to say that the senior did an admirable job.
Marucci, who started for the Greyhounds since her sophomore year in 2010, enjoyed a tremendous senior season in which she led her team to a 15-9 record and an appearance in the Naugatuck Valley League tournament semifinals.
It was a more-than-respectable finish for the pitcher who took over for Alana Wesche, the two-time all-state pitcher who led Naugy to the 2008 NVL championship and several deep runs into the state tournament.
During one stretch late in the regular season, Marucci allowed just one hit over a three-game span. She racked up the second-most strikeouts of any pitcher in the NVL.
“Alexa came in and proved herself every single year, and it wasn’t by accident,” Naugatuck coach Kevin Wesche said. “She put in a lot of time and working during the summer and offseason. This year it really showed with her strength and spotting her pitches.”
Marucci kept the ‘Hounds in nearly every game. Of their nine losses, five were by just one run. And in two more, Marucci kept Naugy close enough to stage last-inning rallies.
Gillian Fortier, Sarah Chandler, and Marucci found themselves in positions more than once to earn walk-off wins for Naugatuck. On May 7, the Greyhounds scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh to beat Holy Cross, 4-3, on a two-run double by Chandler and an RBI single by Marucci.
In the Class LL first round, Chandler knocked home Fortier and Stefani Barry for the game-winning runs in the 10th inning of a 2-1 victory over New Canaan.
“I think we kept our composure throughout,” Wesche said of Naugatuck’s late rallies. “We always had confidence. A lot of our comebacks came with two outs. The dugout was very supportive. We were never out of it.”
Naugatuck couldn’t pull the second-round upset as it fell to No. 2 Westhill, 6-1, last Wednesday. Marucci, in her final game, had an RBI single to score Fortier with the Greyhounds’ only run.
Marucci, Carli Pellicia, and Lizzie Glick are the only three graduates from this year’s team. Wesche hopes the talented underclassmen take after the seniors’ work ethic.
“I think that they’ve learned good things can happen by working hard,” Wesche said. “They just have to make the most of opportunities. When the door opens, you have to put your foot in it.”
Wesche said he was pleased by the team’s progress and toughness throughout the season.
“Some of the early games we lost by one run, and later on we learned to win those games,” Wesche said. “As we matured, we started to get where we wanted to be. I think we fell just a game or two short of my expectations, but it wasn’t for lack of effort, that’s for sure.”