Pictured: Bella Richwine came on in the fourth inning for Kaleigh Bodak and locked down another H-K win, the team’s eighth to start the season. (Marc Silvestrini photo)
By Marc Silvestrini
DURHAM — Before Monday’s key Shoreline Conference game against Coginchaug, Haddam-Killingworth coach Jeff Talbott’s lineup card had three curious omissions.
Each of the nine Cougar batters was listed, but three had no position designated after their names because Talbott was going to wait until he saw his pitchers warm up before deciding who would pitch and who would play where.
As it turned out, Talbott made the right decision – something he’s been doing regularly throughout his team’s first eight games – as Kaleigh Bodak, the H-K starter, and Bella Richwine, who relieved Bodak in the fourth, combined to toss a one-hitter in a 4-0 victory, the Cougars’ eighth straight of the season.
“In a nutshell, we played about as good a game today as I think we’re capable of playing,” Talbott said. “We just clicked on all cylinders. I was very pleased with our pitching, I thought our defense made some good plays all over the field, and though we weren’t exactly great at the plate, we did get some clutch base hits when we needed them against a really good Coginchaug pitcher.”
That pitcher, senior right-hander Kelly Boothroyd, saw her record drop to 1-2 on the season though she has now surrendered exactly one earned run in three complete games of work. Boothroyd gave up four runs on Monday, three of which were unearned, on six hits in seven innings, striking out 10 and walking one.
“I feel bad for her. She’s run into some real hard luck so far this year,” Coginchaug coach Steve DeMartino said, noting that Boothroyd’s other loss was a 1-0 heartbreaker to Cromwell in which the Panthers scored the game’s only run in the last of the seventh.
“We just couldn’t put the ball in play enough today,” he said. “This loss was reminiscent of the Cromwell game in that we couldn’t put our bats on the ball while the other team played what was pretty much a perfect game.
“You just gotta take your hats off to H-K. They may be young, but they’re a very good team.”
Two members of H-K’s vaunted freshman class (the Cougars generally start five or six freshman in every game) combined their talents to score the game’s first run in the second.
Ivy McNiel led off the inning by belting a double over the head of Coginchaug’s center fielder and came around to score the first and only earned run Boothroyd has given up this season on a clutch two-out, line-drive single to center by classmate Keira Czarkowski.
Bodak, a sophomore, breezed through the first three innings, allowing a single baserunner – Amalia DeMartino, the Blue Devils shortstop, who drew a walk leading off the first.
Talbott replaced Bodak on the mound with Richwine, after the southpaw had surrendered Coginchaug’s lone hit of the day, a single by catcher Dana Boothroyd that bounced off the bag at first, and a walk to the next batter, Kelly Boothroyd.
The first batter to face Richwine, Coginchaug sophomore Jackie Kelly, then hit an absolute screamer to left-center that left fielder Cheyenne LaTouche, another freshman, ranged far to her left to grab as she tumbled to the grass, preventing what would probably have been a two-run double.
Having been helped out by her classmate’s stellar defensive play, Richwine, you guessed it – another freshman — proceeded to retire all 11 Blue Devils she faced, including five on strikeouts, over 3 2/3 innings of immaculate relief.
“I feel I do better when I face good teams, and Coginchaug is a good team,” she said. “It’s also nice when the people you’re playing with – like Cheyenne and Keira – are making great plays behind you. It’s really nice to be supported like that.”
The Cougars provided Richwine with some breathing room in the top of the sixth when McNiel collected her second hit of the day, a line single to center with two out in the inning, and scored on a three-base outfield error to make it 2-0.
The visitors then sealed the deal by scoring two more unearned runs in the top of the seventh. Czarkowski led off with her second hit of the day, a soft liner to center, was bunted to second by catcher Madison LaTouche, and scored on an infield error off the bat of Kat McQueeney.
Richwine then accounted for the Cougars’ fourth and final run when she grounded a hard single to left to plate McQueeney.
“I really don’t have to do much with the way we’re playing right now,” Talbott said. “That may change as the season goes on, but for right now, we’re playing very well and coaching this team is a lot of fun.”
DeMartino, meanwhile, took the loss in stride.
“We take every game seriously, but you also have to learn to put things in perspective,” he said. “I told them after the game, ‘This is just a loss in the regular season; it’s not the end of the world.’
“I also told them that the mark of a really good team is how they handle adversity, how they come back after a hard loss. Let’s see how they respond tomorrow.”
The Blue Devils, now 3-2 on the season, head to Moodus on Tuesday for a 4 p.m. game against Hale-Ray before coming home on Wednesday to face Morgan, also at 4 p.m.
The Cougars will look to extend their unbeaten streak to nine straight on Wednesday when they travel to Westbrook for a 3:45 p.m. game.
HK 010 001 2–2 6 0
Cog 000 000 0–0 1 2
Pitchers: HK–Bodak, Richwine (4); Cog–K.Boothroyd. WP: Bodak; LP: K. Boothroyd. S: Richwine. 2B: HK–McNiel.