With a crammed trophy case, the St. Joseph softball team is one of the league’s most decorated programs. Still, even with that success, it is hard to think of a better 72-hour span than the Cadets put together last week.
It started with a come-from-behind 2-1 win in eight innings over town rival Trumbull, which was No. 3 in the state at the time. Then came an 11-0 rout of Fairfield Ludlowe, which is in contention for the third seed in the FCIAC Tournament. The climax came on Saturday, a 2-0 win over No. 1 Masuk.
“Going back in past years there have always been big games and weeks but this was tough,” St. Joseph coach Jeff Babineau said. “You had the big rivalry game with Trumbull, which is always a tough day to play, and then the Masuk game got moved three times so it just loaded up the whole week.”
With two weeks left in the regular season, given the remaining schedule, it would be shocking if the Cadets did not carry an undefeated record into the postseason. Then comes the chase for a fifth league title in six years and second straight state title.
All of the Cadets’ attributes were on display in the past week, and as with everything in the sport it all begins on the mound. As has been the case all season, Payton Doiron was spectacular, allowing just one run in 22 innings.
“She had a great week,” Babineau said. “She’s keeping us in games and we put a good defense behind her as always. You scratch out a run or two here and there and that’s a good combination.”
Doiron, a junior, has made it much easier for her team’s lineup. She is 13-0, with a 0.72 earned run average. In 87 innings she has allowed just 58 hits, with 130 strikeouts and 21 walks.
“Her ball moves quite well,” Babineau said. “She’s not super overpowering. She throws very hard. Her movement is what gets balls down where we need them in the ground. She’s gotten better over the years, she’s reduced her walk ratio, which is a key. She worked herself pretty good over the winter and last fall and we’re seeing the results of that.”
Doiron is often poker-faced, but both Babineau and Charlee Horton, the Cadets’ catcher, said that what you see on the outside is not indicative of the burning competitiveness inside.
“She doesn’t show a lot of emotion out there,” Babineau said. “The conversations are very quiet but internally she puts the pressure on herself. She doesn’t show it on the outside. When she puts somebody on or gives up a hit she bears down pretty good.”
Speaking of Horton, the junior catcher has emerged as the Cadets’ emotional leader. It was her home run that was the difference in the win over Trumbull.
Horton is batting .400, with four home runs and 13 RBIs. Ten of her 18 hits have been for extra bases.
“Charlee is sort of the glue,” Babineau said. “She gets everybody going, never stops talking, keeps everybody in the game, whether we’re up or down. She’s a good leader behind the dish. That’s one of the things I really like. If something is going on I can look at her and she’ll know what she has to say to Payton so there is a good chemistry there.”
Shortstop Maddy Fitzgerald has had a breakout year, both at the plate and in the field. A sophomore, Fitzgerald leads the team with a .481 batting average, 26 hits, nine doubles and 20 RBIs. She has only struck out twice. And she has committed just one error.
“Maddy is quite a player,” Babineau said. “Showing she is probably going to be one of the best hitters ever to come out of St. Joe’s. She can do everything. She can hit for power, she can put the ball down, go to rightfield when we need her to, she can bunt somebody over. Her defense is phenomenal. We’re very happy to have her.”
Captain Kaitlin Capobianco, one of just two seniors, is hitting .418, with 15 RBIs and 23 runs scored. Cami Heintz is right behind Fitzgerald with a .477 average.
“I like the chemistry,” Babineau said. “We have an attitude bend don’t break. They really work well together, pick each other up. They all understand the game and have to contribute different ways.”
As far as the Cadets’ long-term goals, Babineau said his players have flourished by looking at themselves not as 15-0, but 1-0 15 times over.
“The biggest thing we talk about all the time is one game at a time,” Babineau said. “As much as the Masuk game was very well attended and well watched, it was game No. 15 on our schedule. We know we want to play three extra in the FCIAC and five in the state. To do that you just have to do one game at a time.”
Top Of The Order
1. St. Joseph (16-0, 12-0 FCIAC). The Cadets are coming off about as good a week as you can have during the regular season.
2. Trumbull (13-1, 9-1). A one-run extra-inning loss to the Cadets is the only blemish on what is otherwise a spotless record for the Eagles.
3. Fairfield Warde (10-2, 9-2). Riding the pitching of Olivia Vadas and balanced hitting, the Mustangs have been the best team not located in Trumbull.
4. Fairfield Ludlowe (11-4, 9-3). You could take Ludlowe, Stamford and Danbury, pick their names out of a hat and it would be difficult to determine the order. The Falcons have been ever so slightly more consistent.
5. Stamford (11-4, 8-3). The Black Knights have split with Danbury, played everyone tough and have big-game experience. And an impressive win yesterday against Warde.