Pictured: Coginchaug’s softball team hosts H-K on Monday in one of the top matchups of the still-early 2021 season. (Marc Silvestrini photo)
By Paul Augeri
For the players and their fan bases, the final Monday of April offers marquee Shoreline Conference matchups in both baseball and softball — and both games involve Haddam-Killingworth and Coginchaug.
First off, the young and dynamic H-K softball team, the surprise of the Shoreline with their conference-best 7-0 record and punishing offense, meets Coginchaug in Durham (4pm first pitch).
Chey LaTouche, Ivy McNiel and Bella Richwine are among six freshmen powering a lineup averaging 10 runs per game, and sophomore Kaleigh Bodak and Richwine have been strong enough on the mound to hold down all comers.
H-K’s youth contrasts a Coginchaug team whose biggest strength is its up-the-middle seniors — pitcher Kelly Boothroyd, catcher Dana Boothroyd and shortstop Amalia DeMartino, who also contribute mightily on offense. The Blue Devils won their first three before Cromwell super sophomore Lily Kenney shut them down 1-0 loss last week.
Monday’s game could go either way. The Cougars hit for power. It will be interesting to see how the first five in the order – Kat McQueeney, Richwine, LaTouche, McNiel and Ella McGlynn – perform against the hard-throwing Boothroyd.
In Higganum, H-K and Coginchaug enter Monday’s game tied atop the Shoreline standings at 6-1. Senior southpaw and UConn-bound Kolby Pascarelli, a candidate for Shoreline Player of the Year, will start for the Blue Devils against senior right-hander Matt Miranda, who’s appeared exclusively out of the bullpen this season.
H-K has won three straight since an April 17 loss to Morgan (4-3) in nine innings. Coginchaug opened the season with five straight wins before their 8-3 loss to Cromwell on Thursday.
Like their softball counterparts, this is their only regular-season meeting. Coginchaug (small) and H-K (large) are split between the conference’s two divisions. There is a good chance they would meet in the SLC tournament in late May.
Cougars coach Mark Brookes, who’s just a handful of wins shy of 700 for his career, does not view this as any kind of statement game.
“With the direction we’ve headed in and from our experience, there are several good teams in the Shoreline this year,” he said. “I’ve read a lot about Coginchaug but just haven’t seen them. And I know it wasn’t an easy game when we beat Cromwell (4-2 in the teams’ season opener). North Branford is good. On Friday, we didn’t blow Hale-Ray out.”
H-K scored its seven runs over the final three innings for a 7-1 victory in Moodus.
“Even the teams you think you may beat easily, it’s not a fact,” Brookes said. “Randy (Old Lyme coach Randy St. Germain) told me, and Old Lyme is tough too, there’s no breaks in the schedule anymore, at least not this year. Everybody has shown they can inflict damage on anybody else. So we prepare the same for everybody.”
XAVIER GETS OPPORTUNITY TO DUNK
Xavier’s offense, aggressiveness on the bases and solid defensive play were just a couple of reasons why the Falcons won their first four games of the season.
That winning streak ended Friday with a 3-2 loss to Hand in Madison. Xavier fell behind 3-0 after five, put up two runs in the sixth but couldn’t come all the way back. The Falcons had 12 hits.
Tuesday gives Xavier the chance to start another good streak when they play for the first time at Dunkin’ Donuts Park, home of the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats. The Falcons’ opponent will be Jonathan Law (3-3) in a 3:30pm start.
Xavier coach Nick Cerreta said his players are “stoked” to have the opportunity (Xavier is the host team).
“It’s going to be awesome,” Falcons center field Drew Kron said. “When he told the team that we would be doing this, we jumped up and down with excitement.”
Xavier plays its home games at Middletown’s Palmer Field, arguably the premier park for local ball in the state.
“We already get to play in the best ballpark in Connecticut to start with,” Kron said, “so going up a notice is just amazing. It’s a great feeling to have and good that everyone will get this experience (of playing at Dunkin’).”
AROUND THE AREA
**Hale-Ray’s baseball team bounced back from its loss to H-K with a 12-2 win over East Hampton on Saturday. The Shoreline is loaded with talented pitching arms and one belongs to Noises senior captain Matt Lauria. He went the distance for this third win in three starts (Hale-Ray is 5-2), striking out seven. He also drove in two runs as part of Hale-Ray’s 12-hit day. Hunter Espinosa led the Noises with three hits and four RBIs.
**On Wednesday, East Hampton will be the host team when the Bellringers (2-4) play their annual game at Dunkin’ against Portland (1-5). Game time is 6:30pm.
**North Branford’s first softball game coming out of a 10-day quarantine is scheduled for Thursday against Coginchaug at home (4pm). The Thunderbirds are 4-1.
**Junior Colin Murphy is Coginchaug’s top golfer this season. He’s doing pretty well for himself on the side, too. Two weeks ago he reached the semifinals of the U.S. Challenge Cup Junior Match Play Championship. This weekend, Murphy shot 81 (38-43) to finish 33rd in the Northeast Junior Ryder Cup. The field of 52 brought together some of the best junior players in the Northeast at Ledgemont CC in Seekonk, Mass.
**Danny Botti, who manages the 19U Middletown Post 75 team in the summer, was recently hired to be the freshman baseball coach at Avon High School.
**Mark Brookes’ take on his younger players after not having a season in 2020 because of the pandemic: “Personally, I’m looking at my juniors as sophomores and my sophomores as freshmen. Yes, they all play AAU ball in the summer and fall (of 2020), but they didn’t play for me. It’s still baseball, but we take a different approach to it. I’m going to have a different opinion than an AAU coach has about who plays and who doesn’t. It’s a learning experience for me and they’re learning to deal with me. But everybody’s learning.”