Melissa Giordano grew up at a time when the city of Stamford was the hotbed for FCIAC softball. From 1992 until 2009, Stamford High, Westhill and Trinity Catholic combined to win 13 titles.
What has followed is a decade-long drought. With the league playoffs starting tomorrow, St. Joseph and Trumbull are considered the favorites. But Stamford, coached by Giordano, comes in on a hot streak, a team capable of winning a championship for the first time since 2006, a year after she graduated from the school.
A big reason is a roster made up of seven seniors who have played together since they were 10, and an offense that has been lighting up scoreboards.
“The seniors are playing every game with urgency,” Giordano said. “Now, especially with playoffs coming up, every play, every pitch counts. We’ve been hitting the ball really well. We’ve been focusing on different situations and putting the ball in play. Putting pressure on the other team.”
The Black Knights completed the regular season with a 16-4 record, 12-4 in league play. They are the fourth seed and will host No. 5 Ridgefield tomorrow in the quarterfinals. They are riding an eight-game winning streak.
“I think we’re in a really good spot,” said Dana Serricchio, a four-year starter at shortstop. “Everyone is doing their part. We always can do better but we are happy with where we are.”
The seniors — Serricchio, Allyson Lyons, Rebecca Schwartz, Brycelin Stalteri, Amy Covino, Diana Magarian and Abby Hogan — are driven by sharing postseason success as they come to terms with the nearing of the end of their time together.
“We’re all pretty sad about it,” Serricchio said. “We have those memories that we’ve made. We’re happy with everything we’ve accomplished over the years.”
The numbers the Black Knights have been putting up are right out of a video game. They have a .356 team batting average, with 48 doubles, eight triples and 20 home runs. They are averaging over eight runs a game.
Giordano broke down her leading hitters.
Amy Covino (.295, three home runs, 20 RBIs, 15 runs). “Amy has a lot of power. She’s one of our senior captains, which is important. She’s behind the plate for us. When she gets a hold of the ball, the ball just flies off her bat.”
Abby Hogan (.446 average, three home runs, 23 RBIs, eight doubles, 19 runs). “Abby earned her spot this year as a senior and she’s been coming up big in clutch situations for us. It’s funny because in the beginning of the season she made mention of the fact she had never hit a home run. After she hit her first home run she was really excited. The next time she hit one I said we’re going to expect it, don’t be surprised. She’s hitting with power and she’s very confident. She has a really good attitude and that really helps too.”
Diana Magarian (.400, two home runs, 17 RBIs, 18 runs, 15 walks, .542 OBP). “Diana is also another one of our captains. She’s a leader in the field and hitting the ball really well. She has a lot of power also. She can play small-ball too. She’s very versatile at the plate.”
Pitcher Kim Saunders (.411, four home runs, 14 RBIs, 17 runs, 7-4, 2.56 ERA). “Kim has been working hard on the mound and she’s definitely improved this season, and she’s hitting the ball very consistently for us. Kim is very cool, calm, you don’t see a lot of emotion out of her. She’s a competitor and she steps it up. In big situations she wants to be the one on the mound. And she always rises to the occasion.”
Dana Serricchio (.411, 30 hits, 21 runs). “Dana is starting it off. She’s our catalyst, our leadoff hitter. She’s been really good at setting the tone for our team, being aggressive. She’s also another one of our captains. When she gets on base she’s looking and ready to score.”
Brycelin Stalteri (.389, four home runs, 27 RBIs, seven doubles, 19 runs). “Brycelin has been a power hitter. She’s also been a very strong defensive player for us and she’s got speed. This year she’s been consistent throughout the year. And she has a lot of confidence.”
Serricchio said this is a dream team for being in the top spot of the order.
“Leading off, just get on base,” Serricchio said. “Our next hitters, Diana and Amy, really come through with clutch hits. Our whole lineup is stacked.”
The Black Knights are 3-4 against the other playoff teams, but only a 5-0 loss to Trumbull was by more than three runs. And a 5-2 defeat to St. Joseph came in extra innings.
“Once the playoffs come you take it one game at a time,” Giordano said. “Anything can happen. It’s almost better to be the underdog because nobody is expecting you to be there. You have to play hard. You either play and win or you go home.”
The Black Knights have a difficult postseason draw, but Giordano said having a veteran team provides an advantage.
“It definitely helps to have a team with a lot of seniors on it,” Giordano said. They’re playing like they don’t get next year.”