Dawes sets the table for Woodland’s success


By Kyle Brennan, Citizen’s News

Woodland’s May Dawes (10) slides safely into second for a leadoff double as Torrington’s Brianna Murelli (11) covers the base April 28 at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. ELIO GUGLIOTTI

BEACON FALLS — There are some times when Woodland senior softball player May Dawes doesn’t mind being 5 feet, 2 inches tall.

“I think batting-wise it’s an advantage because being short, it’s very hard for pitchers to come down to me,” Dawes said.

But it’s not always a strength for the starting second baseman.

“In the infield, it’s sort of a disadvantage,” Dawes admitted. “There was a ball hit to me [April 28 against Torrington] that was just over my head — if I were a little taller, I might have been able to get it.”

That might be the only shortcoming in Dawes’ game. The co-captain, leadoff hitter and 2019 All-State selection is a major reason why the Hawks sped out to a 12-0 start in a season full of high expectations.

In Woodland’s first three victories of the season, Dawes led off each game with a hit and a run scored. She hasn’t slowed down, and longtime coach Loren Luddy is grateful to have one of the top leadoff hitters in program history.

“She’s the ideal leadoff hitter — confidence, aggressiveness, solid contact, and a smart baserunner,” Luddy said.

Hitting at the top of the lineup is a unique type of pressure in sports, but setting the table for an offense that averaged more than 13 runs per game in 12 contests isn’t the worst task Dawes could have.

“I feel like there’s more pressure on me,” Dawes said. “Being leadoff, I have to set the tone for the game. My team has been backing me up since Day 1, so that’s all I can ask for.”

Dawes also feels pressure on the team as a whole. Two years ago, the Hawks were an underclassman-dominant squad that nearly upset Seymour in the Naugatuck Valley League tournament. They expected to contend for the league championship and make a state tourney run last season before it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, this is the last shot for Dawes, fellow senior co-captain Emily Beyer, and seniors Emma Krushinski and Samantha Benanto.

“Last year, we lost a big opportunity because we were going to have a really good season,” Dawes said. “This means the world to the seniors and juniors to get back out there this year because we have a real shot.”

Luddy noted that the transition from last year’s lost season into this year’s hopes was easier because of the leadership by Dawes and Beyer.

“We were very fortunate that they were going to be junior captains, so they were already in the captain role and stepped up last March,” Luddy said. “They communicated with the team, and it was just natural this season that they were already established as leaders. They’ve always been positive forces on the sideline and on the field. They lead by example. They work hard every second of the day. They don’t take time off in practice. Their only complaint is, ‘Can we have more practice?’”

Dawes is one of many Hawks with aspirations to play college softball, and she’s set to play at Stonehill next year. She committed there in October.

“I visited the school a couple of times, talked to the coach, and fell in love with it,” Dawes said. “I took it without a doubt.”

And she’s hoping to take a few more things with her — namely, championship hardware. The Hawks sat atop the league with their 12-0 mark, which includes a 3-0 win over Seymour on April 30.

“I think we can go a long way in the NVL and state tournaments,” Dawes said. “We’ve been talking about it since last year. This season has been so important to all of us, especially the seniors, because we lost that opportunity last year. I think we have a real shot.”