Pictured: H-K sophomore Kaleigh Bodak winds up for a pitch in the fifth inning. Bodak recorded her first varsity win Saturday.
By Paul Augeri
HIGGANUM – It’s tempting to watch this current crop of Haddam-Killingworth softball players and start thinking ahead. How good could they be in three years? Or even two?
The Cougars showed flashes of their potential on Saturday.
H-K coach Jeff Talbott wrote six freshmen into his starting lineup against Morgan, and three in particular – Bella Richwine at third base and out of the bullpen, Chey LaTouche in center, and Ivy McNiel in right and in the cleanup spot – made significant contributions to the Cougars’ 15-5 Shoreline Conference win over the Huskies.
Hitting second, third and fourth, respectively, Richwine singled, doubled, tripled, walked twice and scored three runs; LaTouche hit an inside-the-park and scored three times; and McNiel singled, doubled, tripled and scored three runs.
Ella McGlynn, the only senior on H-K’s roster, reached four times with a single, double and two walks out of the 5-hole. All told, the 2 through 5 hitters produced 10 hits and scored 10 runs.
“In my opinion, those five won the game for us,” Talbott said.
Sophomore Kaleigh Bodak, a three-sport athlete making just her second varsity start, chalked up her first win. The left-hander yielded one earned run on six hits in five innings, walked two and struck out five.
Richwine pitched the sixth and seventh without allowing a hit. She was the winner against Cromwell last Saturday and North Branford on Monday.
“I have 20 kids on the team and 15 of them I hadn’t seen before the first day of practice,” said Talbott, alluding to not having a season at all in 2020 because of the pandemic. “It’s just our third game. We’re really still just getting to know everybody.”
Ten of the 20 players are in the ninth grade. Keira Czarkowski at second base and Annabelle Zajac in left field also were in the lineup and Brooke Hickman came on as a pinch hitter in H-K’s last at-bat.
Although his club made a slew of errors Saturday, young teams are prone to do. Talbott says dropped fly balls and mishandled balls in play are fixable.
“They are making mistakes,” he said, “but I’m extremely pleased with the way they played today.”
Morgan scored twice in the top of the first with the benefit of two H-K errors. The Cougars made up for it by scoring three times in their half, with LaTouche, McNiel and Ella McGlynn, the only senior on the roster, driving in runs.
After Bodak retired Morgan in order in the second, the Cougars batted around in their half, piling up nine runs, to blow this one open. Morgan starter Kacey Edwards walked five and gave up run-scoring hits to Kat McQueeney, McNiel, Maddie LaTouche and Bodak.
The Cougars also showed some serious power in the sixth. After Richwine led off with an infield hit, left-handed hitter Chey LaTouche crushed one over the head of Courtney Vause in right and circled the bases. McNiel followed with a triple to deep left field and McGlynn drove her in with a double to the gap in left-center.
“I can’t remember three balls hit so far at this field in that one inning,” Talbott said.
Center fielder Bianca Arias led Morgan with two hits and also scored a run.
The Cougars’ top defensive player Saturday was McNiel, an infielder who filled in in right field (she also can pitch). She caught three fly balls, doubled a runner off of first base and snared a hard shot over her shoulder with two Morgan runners on for the final out of the fourth.
“There are certain people I need to play and Ivy has to play,” Talbott said. “She can play first and third. She’s never played the outfield. I said, ‘You can play the outfield today, right?’ That was a pretty good catch she made running back.”