NAUGATUCK — One of the hardest things to accomplish in sports is repeating as champion. Then there is the breed of athletes who enter the dynasty realm beginning with the three-peat.
The Naugatuck 1 softball team reached that plateau this summer when it won the Joan Joyce softball league for the third season in a row.
Manager Rick Pelliccia, along with assistant coaches Leigh Aronin and Mike DiMaria, began the journey five seasons ago with a group of young, energetic softball players.
“We really had a young team when we started,” Pelliccia said. “But for the most part they stayed together and grew as a team. We felt coming into this season that we had a chance to repeat. But I knew it would be a struggle and it was. There are some good teams in this league.”
The Joan Joyce softball league, composed mostly of high school players from the Naugatuck Valley and Berkshire leagues, plays the bulk of its season at Municipal Stadium.
This year’s league had three teams from Watertown and Waterbury, two teams from Naugatuck, with teams representing Thomaston and Burlington to make up the 10-team circuit.
Naugatuck 1 had eight players who were part of back-to-back championship seasons and were looking for a third with three-year starters in the outfield, Jess Aronin in right, Lianne Wallace in center and Shannon Hale in left.
Naugatuck 1 also boasted a veteran infield entering its third season together with Sydney Cotto at first base, Theresa Marcelynas at third base and Alessandra DiMaria at shortstop along with pitcher Carli Pelliccia and extra hitter Sam Bombardier.
Sarah Chandler took over the chores at second base and Naugatuck also had the bat of all-state and All-NVL catcher Gillian Fortier.
Naugatuck was also aided by a deep bench that gained valuable experience this season with Jackie Aronin, Taya Diaz, Sara Marques and Madison Jenson entering ninth grade this fall.
“We had some good young players this year,” Pelliccia said. “They gained some experience and will be able to step in and fill some holes next season. We will lose four players but a bulk of the team will be back.”
The Watertown Rapids Orange team led the league with a 10-1-1 mark while Naugatuck 1 compiled a 9-3-1 ledger. Naugatuck dropped two games to Watertown during the regular season and there was much work to be done in the playoffs.
Naugatuck defeated the Waterbury Spirit 6-4 and knocked off Lewis Mills 5-4 to begin the double-elimination league tournament. Later, Naugy 1 held a 4-1 lead over Watertown in the last inning before falling by a 5-4 final margin.
“We have always had a potent offense early on,” Pelliccia said. “We just couldn’t put Watertown away in that last inning and they got some timely hits. But the girls were ready and they came back from that and wouldn’t let anything stop them.”
Naugy 1 advanced to the finals by exploding past Lewis Mills by a 12-6 margin. Watertown remained undefeated and for Naugatuck to win the crown it had to pull out two victories.
Carli Pelliccia took the bat out of the Rapids’ hands in game one, spinning a complete-game, 7-2 win. Cotto belted two hits and Fortier reached across the plate on an intentional walk attempt and smashed a two-run double to lead the offense.
Watertown broke out on top in game two, holding a 3-1 lead in the second inning. Pelliccia came on in relief with the bases loaded and shut down Watertown the rest of the way.
Marcelynas and Jess Aronin supplied the damage on offense with two hits each as Naugy 1 came back for an 8-3 win to take the Joan Joyce title for the third year in a row. Pelliccia earned the MVP honors.