Hawks shrug off slow start

BEACON FALLS — A 1-3 start to a season with high expectations could have led to bad attitudes and infighting among some teams. But that wasn’t the case for the Woodland baseball team, and the Hawks are starting to get hot.

After the slow start, Woodland churned out 41 runs over its next three games to improve to 4-3 and get right back on track.

Part of the turnaround, according to coach Mike Kingsley, came because the team’s strong upperclassman presence responded “like you would expect your senior leaders to respond. They never got down, never pointed fingers. It’s made them stronger.

“They had such high expectations, and when it doesn’t go well out of the gate, you’re going to find out a lot about yourself as a player and a teammate. It’s galvanized them. They never started pointing blame or pointing fingers. They knew they had to get base hits with guys on base, two-out hits, clutch hits.”

Another reason Kingsley said the Hawks didn’t get down after a 3-1 loss to Wolcott and a 8-3 defeat to St. Paul earlier this month is that Woodland didn’t play too badly in those setbacks.

“I don’t think we made an error defensively,” Kingsley said. “It didn’t show up in the results, but we weren’t as far away as everyone thought we were. We ran into some good teams and good pitching, but that helped us. Now we’re in midseason form at the plate. We put up 41 runs in three games.”

The Hawks earned a 17-0 win over Crosby on April 10, a 13-3 victory over Derby on April 12, and an 11-1 win at Oxford on April 17.

At home against the Red Raiders, Woodland busted out for 10 runs on 10 hits in the fifth inning to force a mercy-rule win. Mike Stzurma had two doubles, a single and three RBI, and Dante DiRubba and Nick DeLucia each had two hits and two RBI. Zack Bedryczuk struck out nine while scattering three hits.

Kingsley was more impressed with his team’s effort in Oxford, where Woodland scored seven runs out of the gate to stun the Wolverines.

“We had batting practice before the game, and the focus of the conversation was, ‘When we play a home game and a team comes up and scores right away, what’s your mindset? So when we go on the road, we want to score first and make the other team play on their heels,’” Kingsley said. “We came out against Oxford and put up seven runs and never looked back. In a seven-inning game, if you get down early, it goes by quick.”

Bedryczuk had three hits and two RBI, and Szturma hit a two-run home run and also scored on a wild pitch. Justin Butterworth and Jason Claiborn had RBI singles, and DiRubba added a two-run single in a seven-run first inning. DeLucia also hit two sacrifice flies to support Butterworth, who allowed just two hits in the win.

The recent success has also come as the Hawks deal with injuries to two starters. Left fielder Alex Kalentek and pitcher Justin Marks are both out, but Kingsley credited outfielder David Kiernan and the team’s deep pitching staff for picking up the slack.

Despite the brief turnaround, Kingsley said the Hawks aren’t getting ahead of themselves.

“We haven’t accomplished anything yet, but 4-2 in the league isn’t a bad place to be six games into it,” Kingsley said.

The Hawks are set for a busy stretch starting Friday against Naugatuck, followed by games next week against Torrington, Ansonia, Seymour and Watertown.

“We have to keep playing fundamentally sound baseball,” Kingsley said. “We’re still only seven games in, so all we can keep doing is improving on little things every day. We always have to strive to be better, and that’s an easy message to get across with a senior team because their days are counting down. They’re making the most of it.”