TORRINGTON - The Torrington High School softball team's victory over Wilby was never in doubt Friday and when the final out was recorded the Red Raiders immediately started focusing on bigger things.
Torrington ran its record to 18-2 with the 23-0 mercy-rule victory which included another dominant performance by sophmore lefthander Sydney Matzko and put the finishing touches on an outstanding regular season.
Matzko struck out 12 and walked one while allowing just a pair of hits and the Red Raiders put up a 10-spot in the first inning and never looked back.
It was Torrington's 12th straight victory. The Red Raiders haven't lost since April 20 when they dropped a 1-0 decision to Woodland at home and they don't look like a team ready to drop one any time soon as they head into the NVL Tournament and then the state Class L tourney.
Torrington went 17-2 against NVL foes and was 11-0 in winning the Copper Division crown. The only other blemish on the Red Raiders' record is a loss to Seymour (20-0) which is the top-ranked team in Class M. If form in the NVL tournament holds, Torrington will get another shot at Seymour and they wouldn't have it any other way.
"I am excited, we can't wait to have at Seymour again," Torrington coach Maryann Musselman said. "We're excited about Woodland, excited about Seymour. We want to take another wack at them."
If Musselman sounds confident, it's because she is. The Red Raiders are very young, but that no longer really matters. They've been through and entire season and know what is expected of them. Now Musselman sees them as a deep, talented team led by one of the most dominant pitchers in the state, and that's a good combination.
"When the season started I thought we have a young squad and we'll make some mistakes," Musselman said. "Their improvement has been the key, they were good coming in but just refining their skills. Hitting, baserunning they are not making silly errors. We keep our game clean next week and in states we should stay hot."
The Red Raiders will need to stay sharp, they figure to be in some tight ones down the road and the stakes will be high. Turning a play at the right time will be the difference between a win and a tough loss but having Matzko on the mound helps since she erases most mistakes.
"I am now wondering how far we can go in the states because we have a pitcher that is dominating the league and that makes a huge difference," Musselman said. "We have talent behind her too and they are hitting, the young kids are hitting. We have kids up and down the lineup hitting, that's beautiful. We've been top heavy in the past but we have kids in each spot putting the bat on the ball now."
With a deep lineup and Matzko mowing down opposing hitter and a ferocious clip, Torrington is armed for a deep run in both the NVL and state tournaments. The Red Raiders will find out their opening NVL Tournament opponent later Friday and the tournament game will be at either Woodland Regional High School or Naugatuck High School on Monday.
It will be the final NVL tournament for Mollie Bartles, who was honored Friday on Senior Day and she had the day all to herself. The only senior on Musselman's squad, Bartles had two hits and three RBIs while scoring three times and walking twice.
A four-year starter, Bartles has been a selfless player for the Red Raiders and has had a bug impact.
"We have just one senior in Mollie but she will leave a huge footprint to fill," Musselman said. "Her leadership, so positive and great with the kids and leads by example. She has started all four of her seasons here and has played wherever she has been needed. Just a great player and a great kid."
Much like her coach, Bartles wasn't sure what to expect this season but it has turned out to be her best year yet. The Red Raiders have given Musselman the most wins in a single season in her time at Torrington and are excited to add to that total.
"We have such a young team that at the beginning of the year I just never thought we would come so far and have such a great record," Bartles said. "To win 18 games, win the Copper title, it's a great way to go out as a senior."
Hopefully Bartles' career will conclude with a deep run in the states. The talent is there and so too is the desire.
"We have a group of great players and everyone comes and works hard and wants to win,' Bartles said. "We also have an amazing pitcher. Sydney has really stepped up this season and we have had a bunch players step up in a number of spots."
Dominant pitching and a deep talented team has added up to a record number of wins in Torrington so far this season and there is every reason to believe that there are more in stor before this season is over.