The Valley Fusion 10U girls softball team started off the season in late April with a 3-2 loss. Things ended up just fine for the fast pitch travel team, however.
The team, made up of girls ages 10 and under from Beacon Falls, Naugatuck, Prospect, Cheshire and Oxford, dropped just three more games all year on the way to a 54-4 record and a 10U Amateur Softball Association Eastern National Championship.
“It’s been one of those dream seasons,” head coach Pete Calandro said.
The championship tournament, which brought together teams from New York, Ohio, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, was held July 29 to Aug. 2 in Stratford. After going 2-0 in pool play, Valley Fusion dropped the first game in bracket play, 3-1, to East Coast Drama out of Massachusetts. The setback didn’t slow down Valley Fusion. The girls rattled off six straight wins to claim the championship, and outscored their opposition 63-19 in the process.
“They were just such an incredible group of girls that worked so hard all season,” said manager and coach Kelly Kane.
The team has proven to be nearly unstoppable in tournament play this year. The girls have won eight out of nine championship games in tournaments this year, Calandro said, with the exception being a 12-11 extra-inning loss.
The journey started last September with practices twice a week and an extra weekly session just for pitchers and catchers. The work paid off.
Calandro said all 11 girls contributed to the success of the team, especially the national championship. He attributed the team’s success to the toughness of his players and their willingness to respond to a different style of coaching. Calandro’s approach to coaching was to teach the girls to play above their age, including implementing more defensive and offensive signs than is typical for a 10U team.
“We coached them as though they were 16,” said Calandro, who has been coaching for over 40 years.
Kane said Calandro expected more from the girls.
“They played up to it,” she said.
The team’s toughness was on display on the final day of the ASA tournament.
Valley Fusion played four games that day, including back-to-back wins over the New Jersey Flight to win the championship. Riley Kane pitched every inning Aug. 2 — 24 innings in total — and Kylie Bulinski caught every pitch.
Calandro said Bulinski caught the entire day despite getting hit by a pitch on her hand during her first at bat. She never complained, he said.
Calandro said opposing coaches would often ask, jokingly, to see Sammy Sosnovich’s birth certificate since she played so well. He added Cassidy Doiron hit a ball so hard the final day of the ASA tournament that if it didn’t go over the fence, “it would have gone through it.”
These are just a few examples from a team Calandro said played loose and with a willingness to get dirty all year.
Players included Sosnovich, Bulinski, Kane, Doiron, Sam Mullin, Sophie Audi, Meagan Leung, Rory Nolan, Karla Carangelo, Rose Reitmeyer and Lauryn Ramalho. The coaching staff included Calandro, Kelly Kane, Rich Sosnovich, Bob Bulinski, Kim Gallo and Chris Doiron.
Next year, the girls and the entire coaching staff will be moving up to 12U together. But, this season will not soon be forgotten.
“If you had to write a book it would be this season,” Calandro said.