FAIRFIELD — When crunch time came for the No. 3 (4A) Fairfield softball team on Tuesday night, the Trojans needed a bost. Fairfield led by just one run, at 3-2, in the bottom of the sixth, and the bottom half of their order was coming up.
With the bases loaded and one out, a trio of sophomores were due up. Jenna Norris knocked in two runs with a single, Danielle Breen drew a walk, and Delaney Breen added two with a two-run single of her own.
It wasn’t the first time Fairfield’s talented group of underclassmen came up big, and it probably won’t be the last. Although the Trojans feature a decorated trio of seniors; Shaylin Drish Allison Rebling and Destiny Gridley, in their starting lineup, the majority of the team is sophomores and under.
Fairfield’s underclassmen had all six of their RBIs in Tuesday night’s regional final win. Norris went 1-for-1 with three RBIs. Delaney was 1-for-3 with two RBIs, and freshman Peyton McCabe went 1-for-3 with an RBI. “They’ve definitely stepped up this year in big, big ways,” said Drish, who saw her share of big hits when she was an underclassman. “Our hitting has definitely gotten a lot better all the way through the lineup, and it wa sjust cool to see them come through tonight.”
Fairfield starts six underclassmen on a usual night, and each of them contributed in the Trojans’ biggest game of the year so far. Sophomore first baseman Hannah Simpson was 2-for-2, and freshman Coty Engle went 2-for-3.
The Trojans have gotten an unbelievable amount of production from their younger players in 2020. Players in their freshman or sophomore season make up the top three in terms of average (Engle .559, Simpson .439 and Danielle .391), and incredibly make up the top six in RBIs (Simpson 33, Norris 29, Engle 22, McCabe 19, Delaney 18, Danielle 16). Engle also has been Fairfield’s second-best pitcher, going 11-0 with a 2.31 ERA in the regular season.
Fairfield’s 2020 success can maybe be explained by their 2019 experience. Last season’s squad, which was knocked out in the regional final, featured six players who were either freshmen or eighth-graders. In fact, the same nine girls who started Tuesday night’s game filled the lineup in the regional final last season.
“We knew we had a pretty good team coming back,” head coach Bob Bradfield said. “Of course, you don’t know back in April or May, and we weren’t sure we were even going to get to play.”
Although the 2020 state tournament will be a great chance for the Trojans to show off three seniors who have started multiple years with the program, the Trojans also will get to feature one of the most dangerous young cores in Class 4A.