The 2021 softball season saw one local team win the state title, while three others competed in the playoffs to put a bow on the return to high school spring sports.
Ten players were selected for this year's All-Herald Softball Team, with at least one player representing each team in the area.
Southington led the list with three picks in Julia Panarella, Jazmin Lasane and Ashlyn Desaulniers. Berlin had two players picked in Stefanie Poulin and Jenna Zupp while every other team produced one player selection.
Newington's Jaelyn Gonzalez, Plainville's Amanda Linnhoff, Innovation's Kaylee Dobransky, Goodwin Tech's Megan Lukaszewski and New Britain's Xandra Silva rounded out the 10-player team.
The Blue Knights repeated as Class LL champions in dramatic fashion this past spring as Lasane drove in the game-winning run to seal the walk-off victory for Southington over Fairfield Ludlowe.
Panarella was its ace all season as the senior pitched in almost every game while Desaulniers brought the power for the Blue Knights as its leadoff hitter for the bulk of the season.
“We didn't really have that one starter [in 2019],” Southington coach Davina Hernandez said before its state title game. “We didn't really have an ace and this year I think we found our ace in Julia.
“The bats have really come alive in the postseason against some really good pitching,” Hernandez said.
Poulin and Zupp were impressive for the Redcoats this season as Poulin was their star pitcher while Zupp brought the offensive firepower.
“As our starting pitcher, [Poulin] was a vital part of our success this year,” Berlin coach Jason Pires said. “Her drive and desire to succeed on a personal level elevated both herself and the entire team to tremendous amounts of success this season.
“Jenna was a tremendous leader and shortstop for the Redcoats, not just this year, but throughout her career,” Pires said. “She played every game with heart, determination, and grit - qualities which are intrinsic in Jenna and are part of what made her such a tremendous softball player.”
The Redcoats went 19-1 in the regular season, but fell in the second round of the Class L tournament.
The Nor'easters nudged into the Class LL tournament with a 10-10 record and Gonzalez had a big part in their overall success.
Gonzalez led Newington with a .620 batting average, 44 hits and 34 RBIs. On the mound, Gonzalez earned 11 wins, while racking up 114 strikeouts.
“Jaelyn has a very high softball IQ and is one of the more dynamic softball players I have had the pleasure to coach over the past 22 years,” Nor'easters coach Steven Markie said.
Linnhoff began her high school career with a solid season as she led the Blue Devils offensively with a .382 batting average. Although Plainville didn't qualify for the postseason at 5-12, it has some young talent that will surely translate into more wins over time.
“Amanda has a great passion for softball,” Blue Devils coach Scott Marcucio said. “Her energy and enthusiasm is contagious as you see the pure joy she has in playing the game of softball. She has a tremendous work ethic and is an absolute pleasure to coach.”
The Ravens went through a rebuild in 2021 as much of its roster had no prior softball experience. However, Dobransky served as its undisputed leader, pacing the team in nearly every offensive category.
“She is a once-in-a-lifetime player,” Innovation coach Michael Jessie said. “A great kid. She became a leader, a friend and a teacher to a lot of the younger players. I wish her luck at SUNY Potsdam next year.”
Lukaszewski guided the Gladiators to a Class M playoff berth with a sparkling sophomore season.
“Megan had a great debut season for the Gladiators,” Goodwin Tech coach Loren Rozanski said. “She finished the season with a .456 batting average and three homeruns on the season. Defensively Megan had an .824 fielding percentage in left field. Megan is a great asset to the Lady Gladiators. She is always willing to do whatever is needed on our team. We look forward to the upcoming seasons with Megan.”
Goodwin Tech lost to Kaynor Tech in the first round of the tournament.
Despite earning three wins on the season, Silva was instrumental to New Britain's 2021 season.
“Xandra Silva is an exceptional leader on and off the field,” Hurricanes coach Melissa Bahgat said. “She continues to push herself to get better in everything that she does. I know her future is bright!”
Ryan Ames can be reached at 860-801-5094 or on Twitter @_RyanAmes.