Photo: Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media
Barlow senior Briana Marcelino had a season to remember on the softball diamond for the Falcons this spring. It began with a 3-for-3 effort in the regular season opener and ended with a pair of key hits in the Class L state championship game.
Whenever her team needed her, Marcelino — the Hearst Connecticut Media MVP — delivered more often than not.
Marcelino batted an absurd .605 with 12 home runs this year, helping Barlow go 20-7 and capture its first state championship in program history. The UConn-bound Marcelino was named first team All-SWC and All-State and finished her career with 139 hits.
All of this after recovering from a wrist injury while sliding into third base that cost her the second half of her junior season.
“She just loves playing the game and that shows on the field,” said Barlow coach Craig Sears, who helped lead the Falcons to the title in his first year with the team. “She’s the kid who’s always asking for extra batting practice, ground balls and extra balls to dive after in practice.”
Marcelino shined the most when the lights were brightest. She led the Falcons with six hits, six runs and two home runs in the Class L tournament. In her words, that’s when all the hard work pays off.
Briana Marcelino, Joel Barlow (20-7, SWC semifinalists and Class L champions)
2017: .605 batting average, 52 hits, 12 home runs, 42 RBI and 34 runs scored in 27 games
Career: .537 batting average, 139 hits, 23 home runs, 103 RBI and 121 runs scored
All-State first team in 2017, All-SWC first team in 2015, 2017
“It was something indescribable,” Marcelino said. “None of us thought it would ever happen; all four seniors wanted it for four years but it never seemed achievable. This year we had unbelievable team chemistry along with (Sears) coming in.”
Being a No. 10 seed doesn’t quite put the Falcons in Cinderella territory, but it felt that way as the team progressed. Barlow had never reached a state quarterfinal until a pair of nail-biting one-run victories over Sheehan and Windsor in May.
The bats then came alive in a 9-3 win over Berlin in the quarters before another dramatic win in the semifinals. Marcelino scored the winning run in a 6-5 win over Fitch in the bottom of the sixth; Barlow entered the frame trailing 5-4.
Then came the biggest challenge of them all. In the final the Falcons encountered a Torrington team that only allowed two runs in three previous tournament games behind ace pitcher Allie Dubois. Marcelino had a pair of hits, and converted a relay throw from the outfield that prevented a crucial run from scoring. The Falcons would later celebrate a 4-2 win.
“I felt a little pressure going into it, but I told myself before the game that I’ve been in situations like this before,” Marcelino said. “I know I said hard work pays off, and that’s when it shows in a big game like that. Some crack under that pressure and some don’t; I feel like I came through for my team and we were able to win.”
Marcelino — whose older sisters Dominique (St. John’s) and Zoe (Pace) each moved on to play in college — finished her career with a .537 batting average, 23 home runs, 103 RBI and 121 runs scored.
The standout is currently at the Triple Crown Nationals in Austin, Texas as a part of the Gold Coast Hurricanes, a travel team from Florida that she’s played for since her sophomore year of high school. A former Barlow coach connected Marcelino to the club, and it didn’t take long to find a home. Following the tournament, the Hurricanes will participate in the Junior Olympic Cup, which features most of the top college-bound players in the country.
The void left by Marcelino, along with fellow seniors Kristen Acocella, Samantha Hilford and Lydia Dazzo, will be massive Sears said.
“You can’t duplicate what (Marcelino) does for you offensively,” Sears said. “Her offense probably bought us a handful of wins during the regular season because she’s just that explosive at the plate.”