By Kyle Brennan, Citizen’s News
BEACON FALLS — Riley Kane and Sammy Sosnovich were quick to answer — they never shake off a pitch sign from Woodland catcher Kylie Bulinski.
“They used to,” Bulinski interjected. “Riley shook off the changeup early in the season because —”
“It was bad,” Kane interrupted. “It’s better now!”
Just about everything Bulinski calls — and Kane and Sosnovich toss — seems to be working right now for the Hawks, who finished the regular season 18-0 to complete the first perfect slate in program history.
Woodland’s offensive attack has been a big part of that success, averaging 14.1 runs per game. Sosnovich (No. 2), Bulinski (No. 4) and Kane (No. 5) all contribute to that output, but their ability to limit the opposition has been even more important.
“We have two great pitchers,” Bulinski said. “They’re both different. One is quicker than the other, and one has more movement than the other. Sammy definitely gets everyone hyped on the bench when we’re down or need more runs. She brings the excitement. Riley doesn’t let anything bother her on the mound. When we were playing Oxford (on April 23), they were screaming, and she didn’t let that bother her at all. She blocks out everything.”
Kane, a junior, started her career two years ago with back-to-back no-hitters in her first two career starts, and she pitched the Hawks to within a whisker of upsetting Seymour several times as a freshman.
She’s heated up over the second half of this season, spinning a two-hitter with 12 strikeouts in a 23-0 win over Thomaston on May 8 and a one-hitter with nine K’s in a 16-0 victory over Ansonia on May 12.
Sosnovich, a sophomore, is impressed by Kane’s agility and velocity.
“Riley is better fielding off the mound than me, for sure,” Sosnovich said. “She’s quicker.”
The younger pitcher is a high school rookie in her sophomore season due to the pandemic that canceled her freshman campaign, but she’s made an immediate impact at Woodland. Her pitch movement and helpfulness catches Kane’s attention.
“Sam definitely has the ability to move her ball around,” Kane said. “She messes hitters up with her riseball. She helps everyone around her — she’s a team player.”
Sosnovich starred in Woodland’s highlight of the season, a 3-0 win at Seymour on April 30. She allowed just two hits while striking out 19 before a raucous crowd.
“I went in pretty nervous, but after the first inning, I calmed down and was like, ‘I got this,’” Sosnovich recalled. “Kylie obviously helped me out a lot. I’ve played with those [Seymour] girls forever, so I already knew what to throw them and how I could get them out.”
In the rematch with Seymour on May 18, a 7-0 Woodland win, Sosnovich tossed a two-hitter with 11 strikeouts in Beacon Falls.
Both pitchers gush in their praise of Bulinski, a junior who has been their catcher on school and travel teams for years.
“She makes the right call with pitches,” Kane said. “She makes sure to know the batters and remembers what they did in the at-bat before so we know what we can get them on.”
“She takes a lot of pressure off me,” Sosnovich added. “I know if I throw a ball in the dirt, she’s going to block it, and if I throw a ball over her head, she’s going to jump up and grab it.”
On some teams, having multiple star pitchers can cause chemistry problems. Kane and Sosnovich insist that isn’t the case at Woodland. When one pitcher gets the start in the circle, the other plays shortstop behind her.
“We have a lot of trust in each other,” Sosnovich said. “We know that if we make a mistake, we’re going to pick each other up.”
“We both have the trust in each other,” Kane agreed. “We’re each able to go into a game and have confidence to pitch to whoever’s coming up. Whenever we need the other pitcher to come in and change it up a little bit, we have confidence in each other to get it done.”
Each pitcher has relieved the other this season, and Bulinski said it doesn’t take much of an adjustment for her.
“It’s actually pretty easy,” Bulinski said. “I’ve been catching them for eight-plus years, so I know what their best pitches are and when to throw them. I know what’s working each day.”
With the Naugatuck Valley League tournament set to begin May 22, the Hawks will lean on the longtime relationships they’ve built with each other as they try to win the school’s first softball title since 2010.
“I think what makes us special is that we’ve been playing together on different teams,” Kane said. “I’ve known half of these girls since I was 8, so I know them as players and as teammates. I know what each of us is good at and how we can help each other.”