Back in late June, if you had told the New Canaan WildKats 12u Travel Softball team that in one month they would be one win away from the FCFSL U12 Championship in Southbury, they might have laughed.
At the time, New Canaan had just lost two consecutive games to Brewster and Ridgefield by a combined score of 14-2 and dropped their record to 2-4.
But then something clicked.
The bats came alive, the defense tightened up, and the pitching found its legs. New Canaan reeled off nine consecutive wins to end the FCFSL regular season, and vaulted into the A-Division of the league alongside elite travel programs such as the CT Seahawks and the Ridgefield Rebels, teams whose rosters are filled with players from other towns and play in tournaments year-round.
The FCFSL tournament began with pool play on Saturday, in which seeding for Sunday’s single-elimination bracket would be determined. The WildKats drew a tough opponent to start the tourney…the Brewster Rockets. Brewster owned the top regular-season record, and had run-ruled New Canaan 10-0 a month earlier. But this was a different WildKat team than the one Brewster remembered, as New Canaan won 5-2 behind Camryn Schlim’s three hits and eight strikeouts on the mound. Eliza Haney added a huge two-run single late in the game to seal the New Canaan win.
After dropping their second pool game against the CT Seahawks 8-5, the Kats were up 4-0 over Redding-Easton after four innings when rain ended the pool round. New Canaan went into Sunday’s bracket play as the No. 4 seed, where they were matched up once again with No. 5 seed Brewster.
Molly Keshin got the Kats on the board in the first inning with a two-run double and came around to score on Molly Rochlin’s double. Allary Landeck led off the second inning with a bunt single, and moved to second base after Ashley Dunnam drew a walk. Camryn Schlim then drove in Landeck with a single, moving Dunnam to third. And when the first pitch to Rachel Keshin sailed to the backstop, Dunnam came home with the Kats’ fifth run. It was more than Schlim needed, as she struck out 12 batters over five innings while giving up only two hits and one run in New Canaan’s 5-1 win.
Next up was the semifinal where the Ridgefield Rebels were waiting. After jumping out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning, New Canaan was trailing 5-1 after two. To make matters worse, Schlim was unable to pitch after tweaking her back in the second inning. However, Gillian Kane Dinan was able to hold Ridgefield in check over three innings of solid relief pitching, allowing only two hits and keeping New Canaan in the game.
Trailing 7-2 after four innings, New Canaan mounted its comeback. Schlim led off the fifth with a single and moved to second base after Rachel Keshin followed with a single. After Molly Keshin walked to load the bases, Schlim scored on a wild pitch to Molly Rochlin. Rachel Keshin scored on Rochlin’s RBI groundout to short, cutting the Ridgefield lead to 7-4. Eliza Haney walked, and after a popout, Sophia Welch came through with a huge two-out, two-run single to leftfield, scoring Molly Keshin and Haney to bring New Canaan to within a run.
After Dinan retired the Rebels in order in the bottom of the fifth, helped out by superb defense by Haney and Landeck, Clare Wagner started off the final WildKat rally with a one-out walk. Wagner moved to second on Schlim’s grounder to third and scored the tying run on Rachel Keshin’s clutch two-out hit to left.
This set the stage for perhaps the most dramatic moment of the tournament as Molly Keshin drove a 2-2 fastball to deep left for a two-run home run, giving New Canaan a 9-7 lead. After shutting down the final six Rebel hitters, New Canaan vaulted into the championship game.
Facing a tough CT Seahawks team in the FCFSL final, the WildKats’ magic ran out, as they lost 12-0. Despite the defeat, the WildKats were able to bring home some hardware home to New Canaan.
The New Canaan WildKats finished 2012 with an overall record of 15-6. Their players were Carey Callahan, Kelly Conheeney, Gillian Kane Dinan, Ashley Dunnam, Eliza Haney, Molly Keshin, Rachel Keshin, Allary Landeck, Molly Rochlin, Camryn Schlim, Rachel Smith, Clare Wagner and Sophia Welch. They were coached by Joe Schlim, David Wagner and Sara Holland.