WALLINGFORD - Out-of-state trips are the norm for Girls Little League Softball of Wallingford League this time of year.
But this summer, they hope to return as champs.
A few weeks after claiming their second consecutive District 5 crown, the Big League team is heading to Waldorf, Md. on Thursday for the 2010 East Regional.
There will be seven teams of 14-18-year olds participating in the regional with only one advancing to the Big League World Series in Kalamazoo, Mich. in August.
Long-time coach Kathy Thuerling guided the Wallingford squad to a 13-2 record before topping Bristol in the District 5 championship.
In last summer's regionals, the Wallingford Big League team went 1-3 in pool play. The team is upbeat about what they can accomplish this year.
"I think we have a really good team this year," Wallingford pitcher Danielle Thuerling said. "We are a lot better than last year. We play well together and all get along, so it works. We're excited to play and have fun."
The squad is mainly made up of Sheehan students and recent alumni. Platt's Jaime Petit (OF) and West Haven's Elaina Maio (C/3B) are the only two on the team who didn't attend Sheehan.
Danielle Thuerling and Ashley Petit handle the pitching duties. Mollie Hamel (1B), Kendall Manguilli (OF), Kaleigh Fornal (2B), Nicole Papale (SS), Julie Romano (1B/3B), Sam Lawrence (OF), Natasha Estrada (OF), Devon Benton (IF/OF) and Jenna Fekete (3B) make up the rest of the roster.
Many of them have played together since grade school. Fekete, who graduated from Sheehan this past spring, said she has been playing Little League in Wallingford since fourth grade.
"I love the game and the people that I play with," Fekete said. "It's just love, I guess."
Fekete plans on playing for Division III Mount St. Mary's in Newburgh, N.Y., which she will begin attending in the fall.
Papale, a four-year starter at Sheehan, played for Southern Connecticut this past spring. She is among the three college students on the team.
"I have a bunch of girls who are dedicated and committed and also have fun," Kathy Thuerling said. "They are very competitive. We lose five girls this year, which will be tough.
"I've been very fortunate to have all of these kids. They do a lot of volunteering and umpiring around the league. We are going to miss these kids when they are gone. The talent on the field is only half the story."
Hamel (University of New Haven) and Papale (SCSU) received $1,000 scholarships from the league. Kathy Thuerling said the scholarships are well earned.
The Wallingford team starts play on Thursday with a game against Delaware District 1 at 10 a.m. and play District 7 from Maryland at 6:30 p.m. Then they will play two more games on Friday. Semifinals and the championship game will be held on Sunday.
"I feel really excited and I'm really pumped," Estrada said. "I think we are going to do pretty well. We have a pretty decent team and last year we did pretty well. I feel pretty confident.