By Kyle Brennan, Citizen’s News
BEACON FALLS — Fans start buzzing when the girl in the black No. 12 jersey steps into the left-handed batter’s box.
They see it happen time and time again — Kylie Bulinski walks up in the cleanup position, finds a pitch she likes and uncorks a swing that would make fellow lefties Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Bonds proud.
The results in 2021 weren’t far off from what those sluggers used to see, either. During her junior season, the catcher hit .649 with 14 homers, 53 RBI and 39 runs scored in 24 games. She reached base 70% of the time and slugged 1.330 for a there’s-no-freaking-way OPS of 2.030.
And yet, after she gained almost every postseason accolade available, Bulinski insists she wasn’t trying to do anything remarkable during her at-bats this spring.
“Many people think when I get up to bat I’m trying to hit the ball 300 feet,” Bulinski said. “When I step into the box, I ask myself what I need to do to score a runner and where to put the ball in order for that to happen.”
That attitude resulted in a perfect 21-0 run to the Naugatuck Valley League championship and Woodland’s first trip to the state semifinals since 2004.
The success Bulinski and the Hawks enjoyed came after they missed the 2020 season due to the pandemic. Although they didn’t get onto the high school diamond that spring, most girls played throughout the summer. Bulinski added more work throughout the offseason.
“Going into my junior year I was confident and felt prepared because I was always working out, whether that would be in the gym, on the field or in the batting cages,” Bulinski said. “When I heard that we couldn’t have a season for 2020, I was very upset, but that only pushed me to work harder for the season after that.”
Bulinski admits, though, that even she didn’t expect to post the video-game numbers that ended up on her stat sheet.
“I personally did not expect to have the season that I had,” she said. “My season went a lot better than I anticipated and I exceeded the expectations that I set for myself. I had great teammates who pushed me every day in practice to become a better player.”
The highlight of the season came in the NVL championship May 26 against Naugatuck. She cracked a solo home run in the fifth inning to give the Hawks a 2-0 lead, but the Greyhounds tied the game in the sixth. In the bottom of the seventh, Bulinski came up again. Fully expecting to walk, Bulinski loved the second pitch she saw and launched it into orbit for a two-run, walk-off homer to give Woodland its first league title since 2010. She earned the NVL Tournament MVP award for the heroics.
Although the season ended in disappointing fashion with a 7-2 loss to North Branford in the Class M semifinals, Bulinski has racked up a shelf full of honors since then. Here’s a sampling: National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-East Region First Team; Connecticut High School Coaches Association Position Player of the Year; GametimeCT All-State First Team; CHSCA Class M All-State (second time); All-NVL (second time).
“Receiving all of these awards are great individual accomplishments and a true honor,” Bulinski said. “I am beyond grateful for all of my coaches who have brought me to this level and have given me this opportunity to succeed. I am very proud of the hard work I have put into my softball career for the past several years.”
Bulinski’s summer has been hectic for her and her parents, Bob and Karen. She’s played in weekly showcase tournaments and squeezed in college visits with coaches hot on her tail. Bulinski made a verbal commitment July 11 to play at the University of Rhode Island.
“Thank you to my coaches, teammates and my family for always being there for me,” she wrote in her announcement on Instagram. “Very excited for this next chapter in my life.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated from the article published in the July 15 edition of the Citizen’s News to include that Kylie Bulinski made on a verbal commitment to play at the University of Rhode Island.