As the spring season winds down, teams are being eliminated from the state tournament one by one. But for two of the local teams, top-seeded Southington softball and top-seeded Newington boys volleyball, were two to make deep postseason run.
With every successful team, there are always key players helping to lead the way. For the Blue Knights, it has been junior shortstop Chrissy Marotto. For the Indians, it has been Dan Cloutier.
Over the last week, Southington played in the second round and the quarterfinals of the Class LL tournament and in each game, Marotto played an intergral role to the Blue Knights’ success.
During Southington’s second-round 19-1 win against New Britain, Moratto was 3-for-4 at the plate, with two RBI and four runs scored.
“We came out strong,” Moratto said. “The whole team was just ready to play. I felt really strong in the cage warming up so I brought it to the game.”
The quarterfinal matchup against South Windsor proved to be a bit more difficult for the Blue Knights, during their 1-0 victory over the Bobcats.
South Windsor’s pitcher limited Southington to just three hits, one of them being a bunt from Moratto, who ended up being driven in by Abby Lamson for the lone run of the day.
“Chrissy is in my opinion is so underrated,” Blue Knights head coach Davina Hernandez said. “I think she is hands down one of the top players in the state. Whether that’s recognized or not, when people are here watching her and our team, they realize how much of an impact she has on our players and our team. She tends to be more on the quiet side. She’s not very flashy but she gets the job done.”
With another season still to play next spring, Moratto will be even more key to her team.
Cloutier hadn’t had a lot of experience playing volleyball prior to his junior year, but the setter quickly made an impact on Newington’s team as soon as he got on the court.
Just two years into the sport, Cloutier has helped lead the Indians to a state championship in 2017 and earn the top seed in Class M for the second consecutive year this season.
“He’s really skilled and has developed very quickly,” Newington head coach Curt Burns said. “A year ago he was a rookie playing on the JV team. He really has developed into a skilled setter quite quickly.”
Cloutier, a senior, has always been an athlete, originally a baseball player, he thought he would follow in his brother’s footsteps and give volleyball a try.
“He always had some good ball handling but a being a setter is a difficult position to master,” Burns said. “He’s done a fine job. He grabbed the position and ran with it, led the team through the CCC West title and through the state tournament.”
During the Class M quarterfinals last week against Farmington, which was a 3-1 win for the Indians, Cloutier recorded 42 assists and seven digs.
“We just have to play it like it is, a championship game, every game,” Cloutier said. “We just have to give it everything we have left, and it should be enough. We have to stay disciplined, stay defensive and keep the work ethic up. Basically we just need to do what we always do: stay aggressive and we can beat any team.”
His calm, cool demeanor impacts the team greatly. As a setter, Cloutier runs the entire offense and being so calm aids the team.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing him finishing out the season strong,” Burns said.
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860) 801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org