Hawks back on winning track

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BEACON FALLS — Things may be shaping up for the Woodland softball team after a recent bumpy stretch.

The Hawks (12-6) are on a two-game winning streak as of press time Wednesday, having scored 19 runs in wins over Derby and Ansonia. That followed a pair of losses to Watertown and Seymour in which Woodland surrendered a combined 29 runs.

Those losses came during a time of readjustment for the Hawks after losing starting pitcher Samantha Lee to a hand injury, likely for the rest of the season according to coach Loren Luddy.

Lee was among the upper echelon of pitchers in the Naugatuck Valley League, posting a 2.28 ERA and allowing just 48 hits in nearly 80 innings pitched.

Lee’s first replacement was senior Angie Wirsing, the Hawks’ regular third baseman. Wirsing’s move to the circle threw Woodland’s defense out of whack, so Luddy gave freshman Stephanie Kiley a try on the rubber. It’s worked out well, as Kiley is 2-0 with a 2.27 ERA.

“We struggled initially making some changes,” Luddy said. “Moving Angie to pitcher was tough because she hadn’t really pitched much since last season, and she’s also our third baseman so we had to replace a player there. Stephanie Kiley is adjusting to the varsity level pretty quickly for a freshman. She’s pitched our last two games, and it seems to be working to have Angie back at third.”

Woodland’s offense has also awoken in the last two victories. The Hawks average just 3.5 runs per game in losses, compared to scoring at least seven runs in nine of their 12 wins.

Before her injury, Lee was leading the charge with a .458 average. In her absence, a number of other hitters have stepped up, including a fellow underclassman.

Freshman Courtney Jurzynski has been the designated player of late, and her insertion to the lineup has paid dividends. Her .385 average, racked up over the last two weeks, is second-best on the team.

“Courtney Jurzynski had two hits against Seymour and two hits against Ansonia, so she’s been a nice addition to the lineup with Sam out,” Luddy said.

Natalie Veneri (.378, seven RBI), Brooke Leshin (.375, 11 RBI, 13 runs), and Rachel Starkey (.317, team-best 18 RBI) are also above .300 while Emily Wirsing (.298, 13 RBI, 19 runs), Angie Wirsing (.293, 13 RBI, 20 runs), and Brianna Pacileo (.275, seven RBI, 16 runs) are not far behind.

Luddy also credited Starkey, a sophomore tied for the team lead with seven extra-base hits, for helping calm the pitching staff during Lee’s absence.

“Rachel’s been doing really well helping out Stephanie with pitching at the varsity level,” Luddy said. “For a sophomore, Rachel’s showing a lot of maturity at the catcher’s spot.”

Woodland was scheduled to finish the regular season this week with home games against Wolcott on Wednesday and Crosby on Thursday. Barring further rainouts, the NVL tournament was set to begin on Saturday. The Hawks will likely be a No. 4 or No. 5 seed.

“We have to play very solid defense and not make mistakes defensively, and if we do, recover quickly from them,” Luddy said. “At some point in the season, everybody’s been hot. If we can all get them hitting at once, we should be good.”