Hawks find their groove

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 Woodland’s Brooke Leshin gets the force out at second and tries to turn the double play May 2 versus St. Paul in Beacon Falls. Woodland won the game, 6-0. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Woodland’s Brooke Leshin gets the force out at second and tries to turn the double play May 2 versus St. Paul in Beacon Falls. Woodland won the game, 6-0. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

BEACON FALLS — When the undefeated Torrington softball team came to Beacon Falls on April 19, Woodland was different. The Hawks, who were still perfect in Naugatuck Valley League play at the time, weren’t their normal selves, according to coach Loren Luddy.

“They played like they were intimidated,” Luddy said. “I think they knew how good Torrington is and they didn’t go in as confident as I think they could have been. They were swinging at good pitches but they weren’t taking full swings. They seemed content just to make contact.”

Woodland only knocked four hits and struck out 14 times against star Torrington pitcher Sydney Matzko in a 6-1 loss.
Otherwise, it’s been pretty much smooth sailing for the Hawks.

“We’re swinging very well,” Luddy said. “Our defense has learned to communicate with each other much better and we’ve increased our range in the outfield. We’re looking for more consistency from our hitters. Every batter has had two or three great games, so if they can all put it together at the same time that would be good.”

The Hawks rattled off seven consecutive wins after the Torrington game, including a 5-4 win against Naugatuck in eight innings April 23, and scored six or more runs in the last five of those wins. That included a 6-0 win over St. Paul on May 2, when freshman Cameron Caswell cracked a solo homer to lead the charge.

Caswell has been a major addition to both Woodland’s offense and defense. She played from the beginning and it didn’t take long before she settled in. Entering the home stretch, she has 16 RBI and 17 runs.

“Cameron learned third base very quickly,” Luddy said of Caswell, who had never played at the hot corner before this season. “She’s an aggressive fielder and isn’t afraid to charge the ball. It took her a few games to get used to varsity pitching and to get confident, and she’s really come through.”

Caswell also came up big in the Hawks’ most recent win came Monday at Watertown, where Woodland earned a 7-1 victory to improve to 8-0 in Brass Division play. Caswell had two singles, a triple, three runs and an RBI to lead the Hawks, while Nicole Fowler chipped in with two hits and two RBI and Rachel Starkey added two hits and an RBI. Samantha Lee spun a two-hitter with eight strikeouts.

Woodland’s Samantha Lee fires a pitch May 2 versus St. Paul in Beacon Falls. Woodland won the game, 6-0. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI
Woodland’s Samantha Lee fires a pitch May 2 versus St. Paul in Beacon Falls. Woodland won the game, 6-0. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

“Watertown is always a good win,” Luddy said. “They play hard and they make you hit the ball.”

A number of other players are also mashing the ball around the diamond. Junior catcher Rachel Starkey leads the team with a .526 average and 11 RBI, and senior outfielder Nicole Fowler has rebounded from a tough junior year to put up a .476 average with 19 RBI and 14 runs.

“She struggled last year,” Luddy said of Fowler. “She had developed a hitch in her swing that she’s gotten rid of.”

Sophomore Steph Kiley has a .429 average with 14 runs in helping turn over the Hawks’ lineup, and junior first baseman Brianna Pacileo has a perfect fielding percentage and boasts a .500 on-base percentage as a leadoff hitter.

“She makes a lot of outs,” Luddy said of Pacileo’s defensive prowess. “She’s tall, she can stretch and she can pretty much catch anything thrown in the general vicinity of first base.”

On Wednesday the Hawks hosted perennial league favorite Seymour. In the teams’ first meeting a month ago, Woodland knocked off the Wildcats, 5-4, in extra innings. Seymour returned the favor Wednesday by defeating the Hawks 11-6 in 10 innings. Woodland (13-3 overall) and Seymour (14-2 overall) now stand tied a top the Brass division with matching 8-1 records.

The Hawks are scheduled to hit the road to play Derby on Thursday before celebrating senior night Monday against Ansonia.