BY KYLE BRENNAN
The loss in last year’s state semifinals still stings the Woodland softball team, but losing that undefeated season two wins shy of a state championship is a motivator for this year’s Hawks.
“The team knew flat-out that it’s hard to match such a good season,” longtime coach Loren Luddy said. “We just said, ‘You know what you did to win those big games, and you know what went wrong [at the end]. We just have to make sure that doesn’t happen again.’ We’re working on better consistency, toughness, and confidence, no matter who you’re playing.
“They have the desire to win,” Luddy continued. “They have the desire to exceed what they did last year.”
If the first week is any indication, the Hawks will put themselves in position for redemption later this spring.
Woodland opened the year with a pair of dominant victories, 5-0 over Torrington on April 4 and 11-0 over Oxford on April 5.
In the win over the Red Raiders, Riley Kane tossed a two-hitter with 10 strikeouts. She added a double with two RBI and a run, while Samantha Sosnovich homered and scored twice. Kylie Bulinski had two hits with a double, a run, and an RBI.
Sosnovich followed up the next day with a 14-strikeout no-hitter against the Wolverines. She added two hits, two runs, and an RBI, while Kane had three hits, three RBI, and two runs. Bulinski doubled, tripled, and drove in two runs. Peyten Filippone, one of the newcomers to the lineup, added two hits, an RBI, and a run.
Luddy said the team is still learning early in the season. She noted that the focus in recent practices has been on approaches at the plate.
“When we’re aggressive at bat and we swing at strikes, we get hits and score runs,” Luddy said. “When we’re too picky or wait for our favorite pitch, sometimes you don’t get that pitch and you strike out with runners on base, or you pop up a pitch you didn’t want to swing at. They need to become more confident with a variety of pitches. We’re working on those spots that have stumped us at the plate.”
The Hawks are also experimenting with the best ways to fill two spots in the lineup and three spots in the field.
“We’re still figuring out the best fits,” she said.
One thing that has helped in that regard is senior leadership.
“I love the way our seniors have embraced the younger players,” Luddy said. “They recognize that they need [the underclassmen] and they’re not going to get anywhere if the juniors, sophomores, and freshmen don’t perform. They’re not negative when mistakes are made, which will be a big help.”
Woodland is scheduled to play Watertown on Friday, Ansonia on Saturday and Wilby on Monday. Those games are followed by contests against Thomaston on April 13 and Wolcott on April 16.
A rematch of last year’s Naugatuck Valley League final against Naugatuck looms on April 22, as does the April 25 rivalry meeting with Seymour and a clash with potential NVL contender Holy Cross on April 29.
BY KYLE BRENNAN