Torrington softball begins life after Sydney Matzko. Story by John Torsiello.
By, JOHN TORSIELLO
The Torrington softball team is in year one of an experiment, that of taking the field without Sydney Matzko.
The tall lefthander was a power for the Raiders during her illustrious four-year stay, a span during which Torrington posted a 70-9 record and won the Naugatuck Valley League title in 2013. Matzko was All-NVL and All-State her sophomore, junior and senior seasons, and her pitching and hitting made her one of the most sought after schoolgirl players in the state.
Matzko is now doing her thing for the University of North Carolina and she has hardly skipped a beat, posting a 9-4 record in her team’s first 36 games, while recording a 2.88 earned run average, starting eight games, and striking out 52 batters in 68 innings. Not bad for her first year at the Division I level.
While Matzko forges her collegiate career, the Raiders are left to try and find someone who, if not replace her, at least give THS more than a fighting chance every time the maroon and white takes the field.
“Sydney was not only a stellar pitcher she was the vocal leader on and off the field,” said head coach Maryann Musselman, who is her 15th season on the job. “However, we have some athletes ready to step into that role.”
Welcome in sophomore Ali Dubois, who will get the ball from Musselman and be looked to as the player to hopefully pick up most of the slack left by the graduation of Matzko. Naturally, a lot will depend upon how quickly Dubois, who has shown enormous promise as a young hurler, will be able to find her stride as a varsity starter. She will benefit from throwing to one of the best catchers in the state in senior Marissa Morris, and a sound defense behind her.
“We have a young team that is ready to fill the big spikes of the graduated athletes,” said Musselman, as she looked forward to a new campaign. In addition to Matzko, the Raiders also lost Nicole Jamieson, Sam Pelow, Sara Heath and Alexis Porter, skilled fielders, potent bats, and veteran players all.
Among Torrington’s top returnees in addition to Morris are seniors, third baseman Brittany Anderson and outfielder Brittany Young, junior outfielders Ashley Dowd and Cierra McGowen, and sophomore middle infielders Lauren Jamieson and Alexa Tyrell.
Torrington posted a 23-2 record in 2014, finishing second in the Naugatuck Valley League. The Raiders, ranked second in the CIAC Class L state tournament, received a bye in the first round, beat Foran, 7-3, in the second round, and lost to Berlin, 4-2, in the quarterfinals.
The Raiders were a dominant team during last year’s regular season, outscoring opponents by a stunning, 230-5. THS posted 15 shutouts and didn’t allow more than two runs a game during the regular schedule. The Raiders scored 10 or more runs 10 times.
Torrington was the clear favorite to win the NVL Tournament and rolled through the first rounds only to have its undefeated season and dream of repeating as league champ upset by Seymour in the title game, 2-1.
Sophomore Raeanne Geffert outdueled Matzko and struck out the final two batters she faced with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning to secure the title for the Wildcats, their 12th in the past 15 seasons. Ironically, the Raiders beat Seymour rather handily during the regular season, 6-1, at Seymour.
Musselman believes the path to an NVL title will pass through last year’s champs.
“Seymour will continue its reign. I think Wolcott will be strong and Woodland and Naugatuck always give us tough games.” Torrington beat Naugy, 4-0 and 4-2, Woodland, 3-0, and Wolcott by a lopsided 14-0 last year. Holy Cross is another team that could figure in the mix in the league race.
Torrington opens up its 2015 season at Torrington High School at 11 a.m. this Saturday with a game against Derby. Then comes a contest against Holy Cross next Monday on the road, and a pivotal early-season clash with Seymour on the Wildcats’ home field next Wednesday.
Life with Sydney Matzko will be interesting, but don’t count the Raiders out to once against be one of the premier teams in the NVL and state.