Trailblazer: Gaughran is first girl on Ridgefield LL travel team

When the Ridgefield Little League program announced the players who had made its travel baseball teams this spring, one selection was historically notable.

By earning a spot on the 10-year-old squad, Sonia Gaughran became the first girl to make a travel team.

“My brothers were trying out so I asked if I could as well,” said Gaughran. “I thought I had a good chance because I had been practicing a lot in my backyard over the summer. I was still a bit nervous because the year before I tried out and they didn’t end up having a 9U travel team, so I couldn’t play …”

Gaughran is no stranger to baseball. She’s played the sport for several years now, starting in the Little League T-Ball division. But while other girls also play at that introductory level, nearly all switch to softball within a few seasons.

Not Gaughran … at least not yet. In addition to competing on the 10U travel squad, she played on the Montanari Fuel team that won the championship in the 11U Minors Division. This summer, she is part of the Ridgefield 10U All-Star team that is currently playing in the District 1 tournament.

Gaughran enjoys softball — she’s played on several Ridgefield travel teams — but she finds certain aspects of baseball enticing.

“I think most of all, I like aggressive base stealing and the competitiveness in baseball,” said Gaughran, who plays first base. “Pitching was really fast in travel [baseball] and I love to hit off of fast pitchers. Hitting is my favorite part of the game.”

In the 15-14 district tourney victory over Weston on June 26, Gaughran went 5-for-5 with two doubles. The second of those doubles drove in the winning run in the sixth inning.

“Before I went to bat, I was hoping to hit the winning hit,” said Gaughran. “But when I actually was at-bat and the count was 3-0, my coach gave me the “take” sign, but I really didn’t want to walk.

“The next two pitches were strikes. Then on the full count I felt comfortable and confident when the pitcher threw me the pitch. I hit it past the center fielder to the fence and my friend Cooper scored all the way from first base. I ran as fast as I could and actually forgot we had won when he scored.”

Gaughran isn’t fazed by her singularity.

“My teammates cheer me on when I am up to bat or make plays in the field. I also cheer them on when they do well,” she said. “Being the only girl on the team has never been scary for me.”

Gaughran is a proponent of turning coaching advice into practice — one tip even came in handy during a fielding drill in the travel team tryouts.

“I learned a lot about positioning from Joe Espinosa, who is a college coach that helps us out a lot in Ridgefield Little League,” said Gaughran. “One of those tips was ‘getting around the ball,’ which means you need to position yourself as you come down the first-base line and backhand the ball coming down the line to be in a position to throw it home quickly. During the travel tryouts, there was a bunt up the first-base line and I was able to make the play using this new skill that Coach Espinosa had taught us just a couple weeks before.”

Gaughran will switch to softball full time, although she’s not sure exactly when.

“I would love to try out for Majors (the top Little League house division) next year and see if I make it,” she said. “My favorite team is the Marines because they are big hitters and my brother plays on the team.

“I also love playing softball because it is a lot of fun, too,” added Gaughran. “I am not sure which one I will choose next year. I would like to play on both if I could …”