Matzko, Raiders fall to Berlin, 4-2 in Class L quarterfinals.
TORRINGTON: The legacy of Torrington star Sydney Matzko will be one that folks around here talk about for a good long time.
The most dominant softball pitcher in Raider history who lost just three games over her junior and senior years while laying claim to the school’s all-time strikeout record.
Simply a brilliant student, young lady and master of the softball pitching circle, one who has and will continue to make her family, her school and her coaches proud by becoming one of the futures leaders of her generation.
Yet one of her best gifts to this program is that she is leaving.
There is no more to do or that can be done to or with the Raiders softball program with Matzko at the helm.
Why is that you would ask?
Simply because in order for this Raider program to take more steps towards a State title, they ultimately need to face better competition on a game in and game out basis.
The Raiders 2014 campaign came to an end on Friday when they dropped a 4-2 decision to the Berlin Redcoats in the Class L quarterfinals.
The Redcoats are just the kind of team Torrington could use to play about 20 times a year, they would only get better.
Now, you look and say that Torrington did not loser a regular season game the past two years. You would be correct.
Their offense was unstoppable most of 2014 you mention. Also a correct statement.
The flat out truth though, stems from the level of competition Torrington faces game in and game out from the Naugatuck Valley League, with the exception of Seymour, Holy Cross and Naugatuck has been and is awful.
Torrington needs to be able to pick up non-conference games as often as they can and scrimmage higher quality teams whenever they can.
For the past two seasons, nobody wanted to pick up a game with the Raiders.
A loss to Torrington and this brilliant arm would affect their state ranking or otherwise damage their collective confidence or something in that realm.
Torrington Athletic Director Mike McKenna has said on many occasions that he and head Coach Maryann Musselman could not find a team that wanted to come to Torrington and face Matzko.
Once the States roll around, teams have no choice but to face a known threat in arguably one of the top five pitchers in the entire state.
But that also goes for the Raiders, who too often face teams with inferior records but teams that come from battle tested conferences like Berlin does.
The Redcoats came in ranked #10 with a 15-5 record in the Central Connecticut Conference, a mammoth 32 team league with powerful teams which include Bristol Central, Bristol Eastern and Maloney.
Berlin simply plays better teams each time out, which makes them better prepared for the postseason.
Tournament games are traditionally going to be low scoring, well-pitched games that hinge on a team not making many mistakes.
On Friday in Torrington, a pair of clutch hits were the difference in this one, coupled with a pitcher that didn’t throw particularly hard but changed speeds and used location well while using the Raiders aggressiveness to her advantage.
Senior Makayla Harris doesn’t wow you with her stuff, she struck just three but has learned over her four years as a starter how to make what she has work.
“Our advantage is that nobody knows us,” Berlin manager Jason Pires said. “Makayla has been pitching like that for us for all four years. She knows how to change speeds and keep batters off balance.”
Indeed, at times on Friday, the Raiders looked like they could have swung twice before the pitch reached the plate.
The Raiders broke out on top in a two run second inning though, fueled by a long RBI triple by Sara Heath that plated Alexis Tyrell who had reached on an infield single and stole second.
After a fly out to center, Brittany Young dropped a perfect bunt that rolled between the pitcher and second baseman for an RBI and a 2-0 lead.
Young would steal second and take third on a throwing error on the catcher but was stranded there when Brittany Anderson fouled out trying to bunt herself and Nicole Jamieson flied to left.
Still, 2-0, Matzko on the mound, sounds good right?
Matzko was on a roll at that point for sure, striking out six in a row at one point and entering the fourth, the 2-0 lead stood tall.
It’s pretty well known that you can’t teach height in basketball any more than you can teach speed in a sport like softball.
Well, the Redcoats had the second one: speed.
Leading off the fourth, Megan Wicander beat out an infield hit that most of this year was an easy out for the Raiders.
Courtney Silva dropped a single just over third and the visitors were in business.
Matzko struck out clean-up hitter Kelsie Anderson for the first out but hit the next batter to load the bases.
A strikeout was needed in the worse way and when Matzko went 0-2 on Berlin catcher Amanda Peterson, it looked like one may have been in order.
On the next pitch though, a Mayzko fastball caught too much of the plate and Peterson did not miss any of it, launching a long double to left center that cleared the bases and gave the Redcoats a 3-2 lead.
Peterson would also turn in a defensive gem against Anderson in the top of the fifth when she turned and dove and came up with a very short foul pop for a key out.
The defensive prowess of the visitors would appear again in the top of the sixth when freshman shortstop Vanessa Reimer dove for a ball in the hole, got up and nailed Torrington catcher Marissa Morris by a step.
Berlin would tack on another run in the top of the seventh for the final margin and survived a one out error in the top of the seventh to move on into the Class L semi-finals.
For the Raiders, you can’t by any stretch of the imagination say this was not a great season.
Hey, they can only face who is on the schedule, can’t make teams come and play them.
Here’s hoping though that perhaps next year, with Matzko learning the ropes at the University of North Carolina, the team and program she left stronger than when she got here, can get some better games on their schedule.