BY KYLE BRENNAN
STRATFORD — Woodland freshman Ella VanAlstyne couldn’t get a bunt down in a big spot in the fourth inning of the Class M softball semifinals against Watertown.
“I completely missed it,” VanAlstyne said. “I stepped out, apparently got the bunt sign again, and I didn’t see it.”
So she swung. And she drilled it over the center-field fence at DeLuca Field, giving the top-seeded Hawks a three-run lead that they held for a 5-2 win June 7 that sent Woodland to its first state final since 2004.
Woodland coach Loren Luddy insisted that VanAlstyne didn’t actually miss the second bunt sign, but she was happy with the result of the freshman’s swing.
“She’s a competitor,” Luddy said. “She’s a good hitter. She takes some bad swings, but every time she takes a good swing, she hits a line drive.”
Junior pitcher Sam Sosnovich, who pitched six strong innings and hit a solo homer in the third, appreciated the support that her freshman right fielder lent with the two-run homer.
“She’s going to be so good,” Sosnovich said. “For her to do that as an underclassman in a huge game, it was awesome.”
VanAlstyne is living her dream as a freshman on Woodland’s most talented team ever. She hits sixth in a lineup behind Sosnovich, senior center fielder Bella Kraemer, senior catcher Kylie Bulinski, senior shortstop/pitcher Riley Kane, and senior first baseman Cassidy Doiron.
“I’ve been waiting my whole life to play with these seniors,” VanAlstyne said.
And these seniors have been waiting their whole lives to play in a state final, which they were set to do June 11 against No. 6 Oxford at DeLuca Field in a rematch of the Naugatuck Valley League final.
Woodland’s win over Watertown was a measure of vindication for the Hawks, who suffered their only loss of the 2021 season in the Class M semifinals to North Branford.
“It feels so good,” said Doiron, whose two-run homer in the fifth gave Woodland a 5-0 lead. “We were all excited going into this game because it was the same situation as last year, but I think it’s a little easier playing a team you’ve already faced a few times. You know what to expect and how to be ready.”
Sosnovich struck out 12 over six innings. Watertown caught up with her in the sixth, hitting back-to-back RBI singles, but Kane cruised through the seventh to pick up the save.
“I wouldn’t say I was tired, but they started sitting on my fastball and I should have thrown some more offspeed pitches at them,” Sosnovich said. “But Riley came in and did a great job.”
Luddy said the main challenge for the Hawks at this time of year was managing their own expectations. They needed one more win to finish a perfect 27-0 and win the program’s first state championship.
“They’re high schoolers. They feel pressure. They get nervous,” Luddy said. “They want it so bad. Sometimes when you want it so bad, it’s overkill and you get too aggressive.”
BY KYLE BRENNAN