Pictured: Oxford’s Mikayla Walton sprints home in the sixth inning with the team’s third run of the game. At right is H-K catcher Madison LaTouche. (Photo by Marc Silvestrini)
By Marc Silvestrini
HIGGANUM – All those Haddam-Killingworth fans singing the blues in the wake of their softball team’s 7-0 loss to a very good Oxford team Friday in the quarterfinal round of the CIAC Class M state tournament might want to take a deep breath, step back and pay closer attention to the big picture.
The Cougars, who finished the season with a 20-4 record, started four sophomores across the infield, three more in the outfield and a freshman as their designated hitter Friday. Those sophomores have now compiled a 36-8 record over their two years of varsity play.
Next year they will also once again be joined by their ace pitcher, Kaleigh Bodak, who will be a senior.
In other words, this program isn’t exactly on the downswing.
“I told the girls not to hang their heads because they have nothing to be ashamed of,” coach Jeff Talbott said after the game. “I told them they had a great year this year and now they have to play ball this summer, work on their game and try to get better.”
Oxford, meanwhile, is now 23-4 and joins three other Naugatuck Valley League teams – Woodland, Watertown and Seymour – in the Class M semifinals. The Wolverines, the tournament’s sixth seed, will meet No. 18 Seymour at a neutral site.
Oxford sophomore Shay Webb tossed a two-hit shutout against the third-seeded Cougars Friday while allowing only four baserunners. She fanned six and walked two.
Brooke Hickman, who lined a single to center in the second inning, and Bella Richwine, who legged out an infield single in the seventh, had the only two hits Webb would surrender on the day.
Second baseman Lindsey Buinauskas provided Webb with all the runs she’d need in the top of the first with a two-run single that scored Rosemarie Reitmeyer, who had led off the game with a double off Bodak, and Sienna Lucas, who had reached on an infield single, to give the Wolverines an early 2-0 lead.
To her credit, Bodak settled down after the two-run first, allowing no runs and only two more hits until she was relieved by Hickman in the top of the fifth.
The score remained 2-0 until Lucas provided another insurance run when she singled in Webb in the top of the sixth to stretch the Oxford lead to 3-0.
The Wolverines then iced the game by scoring four times in the top of the seventh with Webb (a run-scoring single) and Lucas (a two-run single) providing the key hits.
Lucas had three hits and three RBIs to lead Oxford’s 11-hit attack, while Reitmeyer, Buinauskas and Lia Ward each had a pair of hits.
“Those two runs we got early in the game gave us a little life,” Oxford coach Jim Husar said. “We’ve been a little up and down this year, but when we play our game we’re a pretty good team.”
Husar added that he had scouted H-K enough to conclude that “they’ve got a real good team over there. “If we played each other 10 times, we’d probably go 5-5, that’s my honest opinion,” he said.
The Cougars never managed to get their leadoff batter aboard against Webb and never had more than one base runner in any inning. Aside from the two singles, their only baserunners were freshman Caley Napoletano, who drew a walk in the third, and Belle LaTorre, who walked in the fifth.
“I think our hitters were a little tight today, a little nervous,” Talbott said. “That can happen when you play a lot of younger kids.
“I was hoping we could get our bats going earlier in the game which would have taken some of the pressure off, but that never happened.”
Of course, the good thing about nervous youngsters is that they tend to get more composed and relaxed as they get older and gain more experience.”
“We still have some work to do, but we’ll be back next year,” Talbott said, adding that he told his players they improved their record and went further in the CIAC tournament than last year.
“Now they have to spend the time between now and the start of next season getting better.”
Oxford…..200 001 4–7 11 0
H-K……….000 000 0–0 2 2
Batteries: Oxford–Webb and Formato; HK–Bodak, Hickman (5), and Madison LaTouche. WP: Webb; LP: Bodak. 2B: Oxford—Reitmeyer (2). Records: Oxford 23-4; H-K 20-4.