Pictured: Junior Kaleigh Bodak was pleased with her performance in Monday’s win over the T-Birds. “It’s still early in the season but I really feel like I’m ready to pitch. I think I’ve been pretty well-prepared for this,” she said. (Photo by Marc Silvestrini)

By Marc Silvestrini

HIGGANUM — Two days after pitching her team to a 4-3 win over a good Ellington team, Haddam-Killingworth’s Kaleigh Bodak on Monday pitched her team to a 9-2 win over a very good North Branford team.

The junior left-hander pitched a complete game four-hitter against the defending Shoreline Conference champs, limiting the T-Birds to just one earned run while striking out 10, walking four and hitting a pair of batters.

“I thought Kaleigh did a great job, I’m very happy with what she did out there today,” H-K coach Jeff Talbott said. “We’ve been working with her on her changeup and I thought she used that pitch very effectively today against a pretty good hitting team. She mixed things up and kept them off balance.”

The Cougars touched Thunderbird sophomore pitcher Kiley Mullins for a pair of runs in the second inning and then gave Bodak more than enough breathing room with a four-run rally in the third to stretch their lead to 6-0.

Run-scoring doubles by Annabelle Zajac and Belle LaTorre, a pair of sophomores, plated the two runs in the bottom of the second while a clutch, two-out single to center by Cheyenne LaTouche followed by another Zajac double, this one a two-run shot to right field, and an infield error accounted for the four Cougar runs in the third.

“I thought we hit the ball pretty well today from one through nine (in the batting order),” Talbott said, adding that batters five through eight had particularly effective days at the plate.

LaTouche, the No. 5 hitter in the lineup, went 4 for 4 with a ribbie and three runs scored; Zajac, batting from the six hole, had a pair of doubles, a walk, three RBIs and two runs scored while Keira Czarkowski and LaTorre, the Nos. 7 and 8 hitters in the lineup, each went 1 for 3 with Czarkowski collecting two ribbies and LaTorre adding another RBI.

What might make Talbott even happier is that all four of those players, as well as starting first baseman Ivy McNiel and shortstop Bella Richwine, are sophomores.

To their credit, North Branford scratched their way back into the game in the top of the fourth by scoring twice against Bodak, narrowing the deficit to 6-2. Bodak hit the first North Branford batter of the inning, Gianna DePino, to get the T-Bird rally started. After a passed ball moved DePino to second, Lexi Falcioni reached on an infield single to put runners at first and third with no one out.

Falcioni was then thrown out at second base by catcher Madison LaTouche, but DePino was able to scamper home from third on the play to make it 6-1. Bella Hills then reached on an infield error, stole second, moved to third on a hit by Adriana Hills, and came home on another successful double steal as Adriana slid under the tag at second.

H-K answered in the bottom of the fifth with three more runs to pretty much put the game out of reach. McNiel opened the inning with a single, moved to second on a walk to Bodak and scored on Cheyenne LaTouche’s third straight hit of the game. A walk to Zajac then loaded the bases for Czarkowski, who promptly hammered a single past the third baseman and into left field to plate two more runs to pad the lead to 9-2.

Bodak, meanwhile, seemed to get stronger and more dominant as the game progressed. Following the T-Birds’ two-run rally in the fourth, she allowed no runs and no hits over the final three innings while striking out four.

“We were coming off a big win (against Ellington) on Saturday and I think some of that energy carried over to today,” Bodak said, adding that she threw a lot of screwballs and changeups in an attempt to keep the T-Bird hitters confused and out of sync.

“I felt pretty good out there today,” she added. “It’s still early in the season but I really feel like I’m ready to pitch. I think I’ve been pretty well-prepared for this.”

Cheyenne LaTouche’s four-hit performance and Zajac’s two doubles led the 10-hit Cougar attack. Hanna Senerchia had a pair of hits off Bodak to pace the T-Birds while Falcioni and Adriana Hills had the team’s other two hits.

“We just didn’t hit the ball very well today and we didn’t help ourselves with our play on defense either,” North Branford coach Nick DeLizio said. “Our outfielders need to make a better effort on those balls hit to them and our infielders were throwing the ball around a bit as well.”

“You just can’t keep giving a good team like that extra outs,” he added. “It not only gives them more chances to hurt you but it also drives up your pitcher’s pitch count. I thought Kiley threw the ball reasonably well today, but our defense kept giving them extra outs.”

H-K (2-0) will host Valley Regional on Tuesday at 4 p.m. in a game that was originally scheduled for Wednesday but was moved in anticipation of wet weather. North Branford (0-2) is scheduled to travel to East Hampton Wednesday for a 4 p.m. game.

North Branford.000 200 0–2 4 3
Haddam-Kill……024 030 x–9 10 2

Batteries: NB–Mullins and Adriana Hills; HK–Bodak and Madison LaTouche. WP: Bodak; LP: Mullins; 2B: HK–Zajac (2), LaTorre. Records: North Branford 0-2; H-K 2-0.

In other softball action Monday:

Cromwell 13, East Hampton 1 (5 innings): Lily Kenney pitched 4 no-hit innings and had 3 hits including a triple to lead Cromwell (2-0) to a home Shoreline win. Jamie Anderson collected 3 hits and scored 2 runs and Grace McFarlin and Stephanie Esposito also had 3 hits apiece in Cromwell’s 19-hit attack. Victoria Wiatrek (1 double), Malena Signorello and Madison Tessmer added 2 hits each. Signorello pitched the ffth, allowing a run and hits to Reagan Burt and Madison Reola. The Bellringers are 0-2.

Old Lyme 21, Old Saybrook 2 (5 innings): The Wildcats scored 15 runs in the second inning in rolling to their second win in as many games. Emma Bayor allowed 2 earned runs in 3 innings, walked 2 and struck out 7. Victoria Gage pitched 2 innings for the save, striking out 5. Ava Roth had a huge day for Old Lyme – 4 for 4, 4 RBIs, 3 runs scored and 2 stolen bases – and Maddie Hubbard also had a 4-hit game with 3 runs scored, 2 RBIs and a steal. Gage was 2 for 2 with 2 runs and an RBI and Abby Hale doubled, scored twice and drove in 3 runs. Sophia Barker took the loss for Old Saybrook.

Valley Regional 17, Morgan 7: Mckenzie Mule hit 2 home runs and drove in 6 runs and Samantha Pierce was 4 for 5 with 3 RBIs and 3 runs score to lead the Warriors, who had 19 hits, to the Shoreline win at home. Anna Benson, Abby Amara and Mercedes Peno had 3 hits and scored 3 runs apiece. Amara also had 3 RBIs, while Riley Soares was 2 for 4 with 2 runs scored. Angelina Herbst was 3 for 4 with 2 doubles and 2 RBIs to lead the Huskies’ offense.

North Haven 21, Mercy 2: North Haven (1-0) broke open a 2-0 game with 18 runs in the third inning to win in Middletown. Mercy (0-2) had 3 hits.

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