A few weeks ago it appeared that everything was business as usual with the Naugatuck Valley League softball tournament on the horizon.
Oxford, St. Paul, Holy Cross and Seymour looked like the usual contenders, waiting for a handful of teams, including Naugatuck, Woodland, Wolcott and Watertown, to battle it out for the final four positions.
But the results from recent games showed that this year’s NVL tournament could be anybody’s to win. Wolcott knocked off St. Paul. Woodland escaped Watertown with a win, and the Indians rebounded to defeat Wolcott. Naugatuck then pulled an upset of its own with victory over St. Paul.
“I think it is great to have so many teams in the thick of things, playing close games and splitting wins,” Woodland coach Loren Luddy said.
With one game left on the schedule for most teams, seedings on still the line. The tournament is set to start Monday with quarterfinal games at higher-seeded teams.
“We try and keep our players focused and in the moment,” Naugy head coach Kevin Wesche said. “One pitch and one play at a time. If there is one thing we have seen all season long is any team can score enough runs to beat any team with a better record.”
Woodland finished the regular season 14-6 overall and 12-6 in the NVL, behind Oxford, St. Paul, Holy Cross and Seymour and tied with 12 wins with Wolcott.
Naugatuck won sixth straight before falling, 10-7, to Fairfield Ludlowe May 16 in an out-of-league game. Naugatuck is 11-6 in the NVL heading into Friday’s regular season finale versus Wolcott.
The Hawks are a young team led by a freshman battery of pitcher Riley Kane and catcher Kylie Bulinski, but have veteran players in seniors Stephanie Krebbs, Liz Triano, Katelyn Donovan and Emily Caruso to show the way.
Woodland came out and surprised a few teams by starting the season 8-0 before falling to Seymour, Oxford and Holy Cross in three of the next four games. The Hawks got back on track with blowout wins over Ansonia and Derby, and a 2-0 win over Watertown.
Krebbs hit an RBI single and Bulinski singled and scored for the Hawks in the win over the Indians May 7. Kane scattered six hits and struck out four.
“Our team needs to keep learning and competing,” Luddy said. “All our younger players are putting in the time, the effort and the sweat. We will need our captains to keep encouraging, playing hard and take charge when challenges arise.”
The Greyhounds took a pair of easy wins over Derby and Crosby last week, before pulling off their biggest win of the season in a 4-2 win over St. Paul May 8.
“We are getting players stepping up at opportune moments contributing to our success,” Wesche said. “The confidence level has risen to where they believe they can compete with anyone on any given day.”
Alyssa Roberts held the Falcons in check and added two RBI with her bat. Alyssa Ulrich unloaded with a two-run single in the fourth to put the Greyhounds out in front for good. Samantha Mullin and Megan Schofield added two hits and two runs to pace the Greyhounds.
Naugy has a host of veterans in Hailey Deitelbaum, Shannon Burns and Jordyn Hunt to lead the way and a couple of young players who have stepped up, including freshman catcher Kendall Allen, second baseman Nadia Cestari and shortstop Felicia Salvati.
“All season long it’s been about being better today than we were yesterday,” Wesche said. “The girls unwavering work ethic has paid dividends and will hopefully carry them far in the post season.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated from the version published in the May 16 edition of the Citizen’s News to update records from games played after press time.