Softball: Lady Lions advance with 18-4 first round win

If tune ups mean anything when a team is approaching an important game under state tournament conditions, then the Foran High softball teams' 18-4 clobbering of Tolland on a cool and overcast Tuesday afternoon could've helped the Lions for their Wednesday CIAC Class L second-round matchup against No. 1 Pomperaug Regional.

The two squads were set to square off at 4 p.m. in Southbury.

The No. 16 Lions cracked out 18 hits in defeating the No. 17 seed and rode the seven-hit pitching performance of sophomore Makenna Prete to their 12 win of the year against 10 losses.

More importantly, since starting out with only four wins in their first 11 games, the Lions have now picked up eight victories in their last 11 contests.

"This certainly was our best offensive game of the year from a consistency standpoint," said second-year Foran coach Stephanie Dawid, whose 2016 team won 20 games and reached the Class L tournament semifinals before bowing out to Masuk of Monroe.

Earlier in the season, Foran scored 13 runs. They came, however, in a 14-13 loss to Mercy of Middletown.

All nine hitters for Foran got at least one hit and eight of those nine scored at least a run.

Hannah DeSousa, Alexis James and Kalie Mendola led the charge with three hits apiece.

DeSousa powered a pitch easily over the left-field fence for her fourth home run of the season. It came during the Lions' nine-run second inning, as Foran sent 15 batters to the plate and collected eight hits.

"We've been decimated by injuries this year," said Tolland coach Bill Pompa. "We lost our starting pitcher early this year, and this game is all about pitching. You're not going to hold back as good a hitting team as Foran is without a dominant pitcher.

After going up, 9-0, the Lions tacked on three more runs in the third and a pair each in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.

Freshman third baseman Alexa (Lolly) Mendillo had four RBI while the team’s No.  2 hitter Hailey LaForte drove in three.

Lolly Mendillo's older sister, senior second baseman Amanda Mendillo, added two RBI as did DeSousa and  lead-off hitter and senior shortstop Caitlyn Parisi.

"I think we worked as well as a team today better than we've done all year," said Parisi, who, along with Amanda Mendillo and DeSousa give the Lions three seniors in their infield. "We were all patience as hitters and waited for good pitches to hit. This was a game that we wanted to win because, for the seniors, it's our last home game, the last time we'll play as high school athletes on this field. Mentally, I think we'll be ready for Pomperaug."

Dawid said of Parisi, "I love her senior leadership. We moved her over from second to short this year. Hitting in the lead-off position and playing shortstop puts you in a high-pressure situation. Caitlyn handles it very well."

Dawid, who played at Foran from 2003-2006, hadn't had a chance to see Pomperaug, a team like Foran who started out slowly then won 18 games in a row before losing to Masuk, 5-4, last week in the South-West Conference championship game.

"I've heard that they have some very good players," Dawid said. "But, right now, I like the way we're playing. It will be a nice challenge for me as a coach and for our players."