BY KYLE BRENNAN
SEYMOUR — Riley Kane didn’t get the start as Woodland’s pitcher for the Naugatuck Valley League softball tournament final against Oxford, but she certainly got the finish.
Kane entered with a 5-3 deficit in the top of the third, stymied the Wolverines the rest of the way, and allowed the Hawks’ lineup to rally as Woodland beat Oxford, 9-6, to win its second straight league title on May 25 at Seymour High. Woodland coach Loren Luddy decided to swap pitchers after Oxford scored four runs off Sam Sosnovich in the top of the third.
“I needed to do my job,” said Kane, who allowed one run on four hits with a walk and seven strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings of relief. “She put me in to do it, and I knew to make my team come back, I would have to do my pitching job so we could go hit the ball.”
After the Wolverines extended their lead to 6-3 in the fourth, Kylie Bulinski kickstarted the comeback with a two-run double in the bottom of the inning.
“We knew we had the potential to come back in a game like this,” said Bulinski, who recalled her team’s comeback from a 4-0 deficit against Naugatuck midway through the regular season. “We put our minds together and connected our hits together.”
In the fifth, Rory Nolan tied the game with an RBI single, and Sosnovich delivered atonement with the go-ahead two-run double.
“I had a rough start to the game, but I knew once I got into the box, I had to do something,” Sosnovich said. “I kind of just took a deep breath and whatever happened, happened. It cleared my mind and I did what I could.”
Bella Kraemer, whose two hits included the 100th of her career, said the team’s dugout was important to the comeback.
“We never give up,” Kraemer said. “It is always (about) keeping it loud in there. We are always trying to keep each other up, screaming and everything to make it loud in there so everybody stays positive.”
“We knew we needed to pump each other up to get the energy started again,” Kane said. “Once that energy’s there, we all start chaining hits together.”
Woodland was in the final after an 11-2 victory over Naugatuck in the semifinals. That game was tied at 2-2 before the Hawks exploded for a nine-run sixth inning, highlighted by Julia Rowley’s three-run double. Naugy earned the No. 11 seed in the Class LL state tournament. Kane, the most valuable player of the championship, struck out the side in the seventh to complete the Hawks’ second consecutive perfect run through the NVL. They immediately turned their attention to the Class M state tournament, which they entered as the top seed.
If seeds hold, Woodland would host a quarterfinal June 3 before next week’s semifinals and final. The Hawks will seek redemption after suffering an upset loss to North Branford in the 2021 semifinals.
“We’re entering it with a lot of energy coming off this win,” Kane said. “We have to keep our energy up, play as a team, and keep putting hits together.”
“We have the talent, the coaches, the pitchers, everything to be able to do it,” Bulinski said. “We have the potential to win the state championship. We have unfinished business.”
Jason Levy contributed to this article.
BY KYLE BRENNAN