Since the girls softball season began, Northwest Catholic High School has had a few home games, but not on the school’s home field in West Hartford.
By David Heuschkel, West Hartford Press Sports Editor
So far, the early season has not been very good for the Northwest Catholic softball team.
Start with its grass field taking a beating by the April showers. Five games into the season, the Lions have yet to play on it and have been able to practice on it just three times.
“We haven’t been outside. Our field has been under water still for practice,” head coach Rick Smith said following a 7-0 loss at Simsbury on April 15. “I’ve been in the gym six straight days right now with my team. We have been on our field three days.”
For two of those practices, Smith said the outfield was “half under water.” The Lions have had two games postponed by weather, including a home game against Manchester.
Throw in some early season injuries and it has been a surprisingly disappointing start for Northwest, which dropped to 1-4 after the loss to Simsbury.
Northwest Catholic was limited to four hits against pitcher Brooke Witkin.
“We had four hits but we didn’t get hits in the key spots,” Smith said. “We had second and third with two outs, bases loaded with two outs, where we couldn’t get the key hits.”
One highlight for Northwest Catholic was a juggling catch by first baseman Francesca Discenza in foul territory in the sixth inning. At that point, though, Simsbury had already put a touchdown on the scoreboard.
Northwest Catholic had some chances. With runners on second and third in the fourth inning, Samantha Scott looked at a called third strike to end that threat.
In the fifth, Northwest loaded the bases with two outs when catcher Allison Tessman hit a hard grounder up the third base line that was smothered by Rachel Jano right on the bag for a force out to end the inning.
“Right now we’re pressing. The top of our order is pressing way too hard, trying to do everything themselves,” Smith said. “I think that’s hurting us right now.”
Simsbury did not waste an opportunity in fourth, breaking a scoreless tie with four runs off Scott, who did not pitch in the first three games of the season because she was injured.
Scott gave up a leadoff triple to Erin Jennings and walked Witkin. Jenna Gomez-Nieto followed with a single that scored Jennings. Scott walked the next two batters to load the bases and Liz Niedermeyer, the No. 8 batter, followed with a two-run single to make it 3-0. Rachel Jano drove in another run with a single.
“The 8 and 9 hitters getting some big hits gave us a lift,” Simsbury coach Jed Flaherty said.
Smith said Scott was having trouble with the landing spot after delivering the pitch. Several times she moved dirt around with her hand or foot, trying to improve the situation.
For Scott, the sixth inning started the same way as the fourth. Jennings, a right-handed hatter, started the inning with another triple to the opposite field. She scored when a low pitch skipped past catcher Allison Tessman, a junior who has already committed to play at Bryant.
Scott walked Gomez-Nieto and Julia Lukowicz singled. Both runners moved up on a wild pitch and Jordan Aeschlimann singled to score them both, making it 7-0.
“Everything was [hit] more up the middle,” Smith said, noting that Simsbury batters were finding holes. “There was a bunch of balls that went between second and short that really broke it open.”
The Northwest players remained upbeat in the dugout, although a couple of players openly scoffed at being offered advice from some spectators during the game.
Smith remained optimistic despite the 1-4 start in which Northwest has scored two runs or less in three losses. He said once the team gets healthy and can start practicing on the field on a regular basis, things will start to turn around.
“I’m still trying to feel out my lineup, exactly how the batting order’s going to be,” Smith said. “Defensively, I’m still moving people around every day.”
“We’re dealing with about four or five injuries right now that we’re trying to work through,” he added. “Once we decide that we can play this game – the freshmen especially, they’re good enough to play at this level – and it clicks, they’ll jump right in and it’ll help us.”
Northwest’s lineup included two freshman and three sophomores, including one who never played softball before this year.
“We’re struggling right now. We’re trying to find our way,” said Smith, whose team went 18-4 last spring, losing in the second round of the Class M state tournament. “Once we get that figured out we’ll be fine. Let’s get eight wins and get to the states. We got dropped down to Class S, and Class S is a whole lot different than Class M.”
On Wednesday, Northwest earned a decisive victory, beating Avon 13-1 at Fisher Meadow.
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