BEACON FALLS — With only one nonconference game left in the regular season and perhaps another game or two ahead of the state tournament, the Woodland softball team trudged up to its isolated field behind the school Monday afternoon for practice.
After stretching and throwing, the Hawks broke into groups for player-led drills. Senior captain Ivy Geloso has only a couple of games left in her high school career for a team that has experienced plenty of struggles over the last couple of seasons.
But by the way Geloso barked directions to her teammates, picked up a bat, and ran her station with a purpose, one would have thought that the Hawks were preparing for the Naugatuck Valley League championship game.
“Just look at her now,” head coach Loren Luddy said. “She’s a senior captain, the season is almost over, and she’s working harder than anyone in a drill that the players are running by themselves.”
Geloso has been the top leader and most outstanding player this year for Woodland (10-10), which finished the regular season on Wednesday with a 14-4 win over Morgan of Clinton. Geloso and junior teammate and fellow co-captain Steph Krebbs each had two hits and two RBI. Geloso also struck out 10 batters.
Geloso helped the Hawks qualify for the Class M state tournament after missing out for the first time in school history last spring.
“I really didn’t think it was going to happen because we had so many inexperienced players,” Geloso said. “Last year, we had more experience at the varsity level. Not making it last year was definitely upsetting, but this year we’ve wanted to push through it and prove everyone wrong.”
Geloso entered high school with some pitching experience but intended on being a versatile position player. When Maddie Hupprich was forced to miss last season with a shoulder injury, Geloso knew the Hawks needed someone to step up — even if she didn’t really want to do it at first.
“It was a lot of practice,” Geloso said. “I had to put my mind to it. No matter how much I didn’t like it, I had to push through it. I’ve grown to like it. I’ll be playing at Southern (Connecticut State University next year), and my college coach was talking about it as well. That definitely pushed me to want to get better.”
She’s been terrific on the field this spring. Geloso has enjoyed moments of brilliance in the circle, like her 10-0 shutout win over Ansonia on April 12 or her gem in a 3-1 upset of Naugatuck on May 9. She also fanned 11 hitters against Seymour, a two-time defending state champion, in a game April 20.
Geloso has been even better at the plate, hitting above .530 when every opposing team knows she’s the best hitter in a young lineup.
But Geloso’s most important role has been that of a leader for a very inexperienced Hawks team, which has just three seniors and only a couple of players who played their positions at the varsity level in 2017.
“Since a lot of us hadn’t played together and a lot of them don’t play travel ball, I knew it was going to be hard,” Geloso said. “I was going to have to step up and teach them some things. It was a good experience. I’ve never had to do that before, so I’ve learned things about myself while helping them to become better players.”
“Ivy has gone from being a good player to becoming an excellent player who’s a very good leader,” Luddy said. “She’s really shown strong leadership and good sportsmanship. We’ve had some struggles and young mistakes, and she’s helped them shake it off. It’s very hard (to do as a pitcher). Last year, she’d get frustrated and it would affect her performance. This year, she didn’t do that.”
Junior teammate and fellow co-captain Steph Krebbs gives most of the credit for Woodland’s surprising success this spring to Geloso.
“It’s completely unbelievable, honestly,” Krebbs said. “Without her, we wouldn’t be where we are.”
No matter how or when the season ends, Geloso intends on making the last few days of her high school career count, and she’s grateful for the opportunities this season provided.
“I just want to play my heart out,” Geloso said. “I’ve had a lot of fun for the last four years. I’m going to miss it. The girls have really started to believe in themselves, and that makes me happy because I feel like I had a little something to do with it.”