Brennan: Bulinski is Woodland’s all-time best female athlete

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Woodland’s Kylie Bulinski (12) jumps on home plate after homering in the 2022 Class M softball final. Bulinski’s athletic resume at Woodland might be the best in school history. (Rep-Am Archives)

By KYLE BRENNAN
CITIZEN’S NEWS

Her resume is as strong as that of any athlete who’s ever competed at Woodland High:

  • Four-time All-NVL honoree (three in softball, one in volleyball)
  • Three-time All-State honoree (two in softball, one in volleyball)
  • Woodland softball’s all-time leader in most offensive statistics, including hits and home runs
  • 2021 National Fastpitch Coaches Association second-team All-American
  • 2021 Connecticut High School Coaches Association Position Player of the Year
  • 2022 Class M state champion and Class M state final most valuable player
  • 2022 Naugatuck Valley League Female Athlete of the Year

Yes, Kylie Bulinski is the best female athlete in Woodland history.

Some truly excellent athletes have competed atop Rimmon Hill, but none of them consistently changed the game as much as Bulinski did on the softball diamond.

Every time Bulinski stepped to the plate in her three seasons — her sophomore season was ripped away by a pandemic — she was a legitimate threat to hit a home run. Every game she played behind the dish, she gave her pitchers the best chance to succeed.

“She’s the best position player we’ve ever had,” said Woodland softball coach Loren Luddy, who’s coached the Hawks since Day 1. “If you combine softball intellect with her physical abilities, she’s the best catcher I’ve ever coached. Her confidence and approach at the plate goes very far. She steps up every time, like, yeah, I’m going to get a hit.”

Luddy attributed Bulinski’s success to her work ethic, which was on display even the day before Woodland’s slam-dunk state final against Oxford.

“She never stops working,” Luddy said. “The day before the state finals, she had a list of stuff she wanted to work on. She worked hard and earned all of the success she had.”

Woodland’s Kylie Bulinski had a key two-run double in her team’s 9-6 comeback victory over Oxford in the 2022 NVL softball tournament final. (Jim Shannon/Rep-Am)

Bulinski became a catcher at the start of her career because she was just too impatient to play any other position.

“When I was about 7 years old, I played in the Beacon Falls Girls Softball League and I always wanted to either be a catcher or a pitcher because I wanted to be involved in the game as much as possible,” she recalled. “After a while, I realized pitching wasn’t for me, so I decided to try and be a catcher. Ever since, catching was my favorite position because I loved being involved in every pitch and every play.”

And, yeah, she acknowledges her work ethic, but she gives plenty of credit to those who worked with her.

“All of my success has come from my all of my coaches throughout the years of playing,” Bulinski said. “The countless hours and work that they put in with me made me the player I am today. Being able to have two very supportive parents [Bob and Karen] only made me work harder to strive to be the best I could.”

Few people worked with Bulinski more than her longtime batterymate, Riley Kane, with whom she also played volleyball and basketball at Woodland.

“Kylie and I have been pitching and catching together since we were 9, so having all that experience with each other carried out into high school,” Kane said. “She’s a great player because she knows what I should be throwing and what’s working that day, and she knows how to call a great game based on the girls on the other teams and what pitches are working. I can always trust her behind the plate to stop balls, get girls out, and call the right pitches. she is also a great hitter and the team can count on her.”

As Bulinski emerged as the most feared hitter in Woodland’s lineup, opponents started pitching around her. A less disciplined player might have chased, but her patience and ability to hit to all fields paid off.

“She was frustrated when she got walked, but Riley was hot and Cassidy [Doiron] got hot, so when the two hitters after her were hitting over .500, they stopped walking her,” Luddy said. “At times, she was OK with it because the girls hitting after her were hot.”

“I’m always looking for the first strike of the my at-bat because I don’t want to get behind in the count,” Bulinski said. “When pitchers start to pitch around me, I know I have to cover the entire plate and be prepared for anything.”

Woodland’s Kylie Bulinski (23) hits the ball during a match against Seymour Oct. 7 at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

While she was busy becoming an All-American-caliber softball player in the spring and summer, she emerged as one of the most versatile volleyball players in school history. According to the team’s needs, she could set, hit, or play defense — and she ended up doing it at an All-State level as a senior.

Bulinski was also a multi-year starter in basketball until she decided to focus more of her offseason on softball, considering she had multiple Division I offers on the table. She eventually settled on the University of Rhode Island.

This spring, she wrapped up an accolades-filled career in a way that previously only a few football players had been able to do — with a state championship and an undefeated senior season.

Bulinski’s performance in that Class M final — 4-for-4 with a two-run homer and a masterful pitch-calling strategy in Samantha Sosnovich’s shutout — cemented her legacy.

“Her leadership played a key role in our success,” Sosnovich said. “We needed the right person behind the plate to hold the team together, and she was the perfect fit. She really made other pitchers fear our lineup. Our chemistry was top-tier, which made pitching a lot easier. I always said that my pitching performance relied on Kylie and how she called the game.”

Now, the next generation of young girls preparing to wear the black and gold has a bar toward which it can strive. They’ll want to be like the best female athlete ever at Woodland, Kylie Bulinski.

Reach Kyle Brennan at kylebrennan1@yahoo.com.

This is one piece of a five-part series looking back at the Woodland softball team’s 2022 Class M state championship. Stories include the team members’ opinions on the squad’s legacy; the team’s connection to the 2015 Valley Fusion 10U national championship team; head coach Loren Luddy’s two-decade career at Woodland; the grandfather-granddaughter bond between assistant coach Pete Calandro and pitcher Riley Kane; and Kyle Brennan’s column on Kylie Bulinski establishing herself as the best female athlete in school history.