BEACON FALLS — The Woodland softball team came into the season with the daunting task of rebuilding a dynasty.
Over the last four seasons Samantha Lee gave the Hawks a chance to win every time she set foot inside the pitcher’s circle. Over that time, Woodland accumulated a gaudy 62-18 record in the regular season.
Success with head coach Loren Luddy calling the shots is nothing new for the Hawks. They have gone 151-49 over the past ten years, including two quarterfinals and one semifinal appearance in the Class M state tournament.
However, the Hawks are not merely replacing a pitcher. The Hawks need to find the bats to replace three All-League players, Rachel Starkey, Brianna Pacileo and Natalie Veneri, at the plate.
So far the Hawks have shown they are up for the task.
Woodland is off to a solid 2-1 start on the season, beating Naugatuck 6-4 in the season-opener April 9 and earning a 16-1 win over Kennedy April 13. In between was a tough battle with Oxford. The Hawks fell, 4-0, as they faced one of the best pitchers in the NVL, Ashley Guillette.
In order to be successful sometimes teams need that player who can stare down adversity and come out on the other side victorious. Woodland has that kind of player in Carla Piccolo. The junior co-captain showed her game-changing ability when she hauled in the game-winning catch out in center field with the bases loaded in the last inning against Naugatuck.
Piccolo also showed her wares in the batter’s box hitting a home run to lead the Hawks to victory. Junior slugger Cameron Caswell added three hits against the ‘Hounds. Sophomore Emily Brouillette chipped in with a single and a triple, knocking in two runs and scoring twice.
Senior co-captain Stephanie Kiley tuned in a gutsy performance in the pitcher’s circle going the distance for the win.
“We are progressing well as a team,” Luddy said. “This week we will be able to work on a lot of things to get better now that we have the weather on our side. In the Naugatuck game that was literally our first time outside and the girls battled and wound up figuring it out in a good win to start the season.”
The Hawks pitching will be a two-headed attack as sophomore Maddie Hupprich took to the pitcher’s circle last Saturday against one of the NVL front-runners, Oxford. Hupprich surrendered two runs each in the first two innings and then slammed the door shut keeping Woodland within striking distance.
However, Guillette was on her game pounding the strike zone as she overmatched the Hawks and tallied 18 strikeouts. Junior Gabriella Bedryczuk got the only Woodland hit to lead the Hawks at the plate.
“We knew exactly what we were getting facing Oxford,” Luddy said. “Maddie did a great job for us keeping us in the game but Ashley was just overpowering.”
On Monday, the Hawks got a chance to break out and show some of that untapped potential. Woodland scored early and often as they throttled Kennedy by a five-inning mercy rule, 16-1.
Kiley went the distance scattering six hits and striking out five for her second win. Piccolo hit her second home run of the season and drove in four runs. Junior Samantha Buzgo drove in five runs on a single and a double, and Hupprich added two hits and two runs scored.
“Stephanie, our only senior, has the experience and knows the game,” Luddy said. “She gives us confidence when she is pitching and we are starting to make consistent contact at the plate.”
Woodland is scheduled to visit Wilby Thursday. The Hawks have a tough matchup on Friday against New Canaan of the FCIAC. On April 20, the Hawks will be home to face Derby at 3:30 p.m.