Fairfield Softball Copes With Great Expectations

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Fairfield's Mary Rose Finnigan prepares to hit a pitch during a game last week in the District 2 Little League softball tournament. Photo Credit: Tom Renner
Fairfield's Abby Natoli gets ready at second base. Photo Credit: Tom Renner
Meg Szuchman runs to first base for Fairfield after connecting for a hit. Photo Credit: Tom Renner
Anna Rasmussen is one of three players who played on the Fairfield softball team that won the New England championship in 2011. Photo Credit: Tom Renner
Fairfield pitcher Brittany Romero will try to help the softball team win the District 2 championship on Tuesday in Trumbull. Photo Credit: Tom Renner

FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Fairfield’s softball team won the New England championship in 2011 and came within a game of playing for a berth in the Little League World Series. Holdovers from last year’s squad know it’s going to be hard to duplicate that success.

“Maybe within the town and the league people have expectations for us,’’ said Mary Rose Finnigan, one of three players on the team who played for the 2011 squad. “But first we want to win the district and take it from there.”

Fairfield is off to a good start in its quest to win another state championship. It finished pool play in District 2 with a 4-0 record, and will meet Black Rock for the title Tuesday. The winner advances to the Section 1 tournament, with the first game scheduled for Thursday in Shelton.

“It’s unfair to expect them to get that far again,’’ manager Jarry Rasmussen said. “They don’t think so. This is a different team. I don’t want them to think about last year.”

Finnigan, Anna Rasmussen and Brittany Romero played on last year’s Fairfield team. They also were part of the team that won the New England title as 10-year-olds in 2010. Rasmussen returns as manager, and is joined on his coaching staff by Dave McCartney, Doug Romero and Ed Finnigan. The coaching staff has remained largely intact during Fairfield’s brilliant run.

“The coaches don’t put any pressure on us to win,’’ Anna Rasmussen said. “They prepare us to win.”

Fairfield’s pitching staff is led by Romero, who had strong performances in last year’s title run. Maddie Russell and Zoe Holderied pitched in a win against Westport Friday night. With Little League rules on inning limits, one of Fairfield’s question marks is its pitching behind Romero.

“We’re finding out about our pitching,’’ Jarry Rasmussen said. “We have five or six girls we think can do it. We’ll see how it goes.”

Fairfield has dominated the District 2 tournament, outscoring opponents 51-6. Since 2009, Fairfield has won three state championships and two New England titles with its 10-and-under and 12-and-under teams. Shannon McCartney and Maddie Russell were on the 2009 and 2010 10-and-under state champions and are on this summer’s 12-and-under squad.

Finnigan said the players turned the page quickly after finally seeing their season end last summer.

“To be honest, once it’s over, it’s on to the next sport for most of us,’’ said Finnigan, who also plays basketball and soccer. “We weren't dwelling on it.”

“We had a lot of fun memories,’’ Anna Rasmussen said. “Staying in the dorms in Bristol and having fun with our teammates was the best. We’d love to get the chance to do that again, but we know it’s not going to be easy.”

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