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The Rocky Hill Connection

By Kathleen Pulek Staff Writer The ShopRite Nutmeg State Games 18U fastpitch bronze medal softball game on Sunday afternoon at Sage Park in Berlin had a decidedly Rocky Hill look. The Connecticut Mirage 93s, a first-time entrant into the Games whose roster sported six players with ties to the 2012 Rocky Hill CIAC Class M state champion softball team, defeated the Connecticut Angels (Darien, CT), 5-2, to come away with the hardware. Head coach Todd Ruonavaara and assistants John Dabruzzi and Ron Bighinatti are all from Rocky Hill and have been coaching together for more than six years, the last five with the Mirage organization. Their daughters Megan Ruonavaara, Laura Dabruzzi and Christine Bighinatti as well as Emily Thompson, Katie Seaver and Katie Slavin were mainstays on the 2012 edition of the Mirage 93s. The Rocky Hill Connection accounted for five of the teams 13 hits and three of the five runs in Sundays victory. Andrea Gosselin, who graduated from Cromwell a year ago, and players from Berlin, Storrs, North Granby, Winsted and Agawam, MA joined them on the 12-member roster. This is our last year as an 18U team, so todays game was the last this group will play together. Some of these girls have played together since they were 14. Some will go to different teams next summer, playing with kids who also play in college, according to Todd Ruonavaara. For some, this will be their last year playing, so the victory and the bronze medals were a bittersweet ending to what has been a great five years. You spend a lot of time playing together all summer, often six games or more on a weekend. This is like a second family and we have been truly blessed with great kids and great families to spend that time with. The Mirage 93s jumped Pitcher Megan Ruonavaara went the distance, giving up five hits while strikout to a quick 2-0 lead in the ing out six. top of the first frame thanks to RBIs from Ruonavaara (2-3) and Dabruzzi (1-2), the teams two hottest bats. Ruonavaara hit opposing pitchers at a hefty .633 clip, while Dabruzzi carried a lusty .421 batting average this summer. Laura has been a rock in center field. She had one of the best summers ever and I cant be prouder of her, Ruonavaara. said. The 93s added a solo run in the fourth when Sara Hammick drove in Dabruzzi, who opened the inning with a single up the middle. They added two more in the sixth, with Maurisa Ollaris sacrifice fly plating Ruonavaara, before Slavins base hit to right brought in Dabruzzi for the 5-0 cushion. Katie is only 16 years old and is playing up an age group, Ruonavaara pointed out. The Angels broke up the shut out bid with a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh but could get no closer. Megan Ruonavaara went the distance, scattering five hits and fanning six. The team earned its place in the bronze medal game after a 1-1 showing in Saturdays rain-shortened pool play at Chesley Park in New Britain. They rebounded with an 11-0 victory over the Middletown Mystics (Langhorne, PA) after a tough 5-4 loss to NWS Elite (Ludlow, MA). Saturdays games were more of a relaxed atmosphere because youre playing for seeding for Sundays single elimination tourney, Ruonavaara said. Only the top four teams were seeded to play on Sunday due to the heavy rains, and luckily we played well enough on Saturday to be able to play for the bronze medal today. It was nice to see the girls play a clean, error-free game and finish their time together with a win and a medal around their necks. Mirage Fastpitch Softball, the largest girls fastpitch travel organization in Connecticut, emphasizes fundamentals, individual instruction, teamwork, sportsmanship and the wellbeing and self worth of every player as they prepare young women for collegiate softball and life.

Cromwells Andrea Gosselin at the plate. Christine Bighinatti had five put outs at first base.

Laura Dabruzzi heads to first after singling up the middle in the fourth inning.

Head coach Todd Ruonavaara.

Katie Slavin (right) congratulates her teammates on their Bronze medal win. Batting second in the Mirage 93s order was Rocky Hills Emily Thompson.

All photos by Dave Burnham