By Kyle Brennan, Citizen’s News
Woodland to maintain championship potential next season
WEST HAVEN — The postgame message was short after the Woodland softball team’s 7-2 loss to North Branford in the Class M semifinals June 7 at West Haven High.
“There wasn’t a lot to say,” Hawks coach Loren Luddy said. “They knew they didn’t play their game. It was the first time this season we played a team we didn’t know, and we didn’t play our game. They played a little intimidated, which wasn’t like them. They made some bad decisions on swings, and North Branford did a great job.”
The top-seeded Hawks fell behind in the first inning and never recovered. Woodland trimmed North Branford’s lead to 3-2 in the bottom of the second on Cassidy Doiron’s solo homer, but the Thunderbirds tacked on four more runs in the third to chase Woodland starter Riley Kane.
Sam Sosnovich pitched in relief the rest of the game, but the Hawks struggled to string together hits off the T-Birds’ Kiley Mullins and never rallied.
May Dawes finished with three of Woodland’s nine hits in her final game as a Hawk.
“This was the one game where we were just off,” Dawes told the Republican-American. “Coming from our season, we’ve been hitting every game. I think we were just off [in the semifinal].”
“We were off in that semifinal, but May was not,” Luddy said. “She made some backhanded grabs in the hole that were stellar, and she hit well. It was clear that May was the most experienced player on that field.”
Woodland finished 23-1, setting school records for most wins and fewest losses in a season. The Hawks won the Naugatuck Valley League championship for the first time since 2010, and they reached the state semifinals for the first time since 2004.
Luddy said this year’s Hawks will be remembered for their astounding offensive capabilities. Three players — Dawes, Kylie Bulinski and Sam Sosnovich — earned All-State honors.
“I’ll remember their bats — how strong they were at bat,” Luddy said. “When they made a good decision on a pitch, they hit the ball hard. The pure power and skill with their hitting most certainly I’ll remember.”
Dawes and Emily Beyer served as co-captains, and Luddy said the example they set will carry on for years to come.
“They leave a legacy of hard work,” Luddy said. “With Emily and May, there were no plays off in games or practice. We’re going to lose that, but the girls will now have the goal of becoming that girl. Emily was very team-oriented. She came through with some really clutch hits this year. She loves to play the game. They’re hard to replace — it’s not as much their positions as it is their presence.”
Still, Woodland will maintain championship potential next year. Dawes and Beyer were the only two seniors in the lineup this season. Bulinski, Sosnovich, Kane, Doiron, Bella Kraemer, Rory Nolan, Chelsea Donovan and Breanna Thurston are all expected to return as starters.
Don’t expect the Hawks’ goals to be anything short of a return trip to the late rounds of the state tournament.
“Every girl that I’m getting back deserves to be there again,” Luddy said. “The handful of girls that will be coming in as freshmen can fit right in. If they show that same work ethic, they can do it again.”