Wamogo softball star Savannah Wheeler moves on from a great high school career.
(Editors Note) This story has a correction from the version that appears in the latest edition of the Litchfield County Sports Magazine, on sale now. In the magazine, Wheeler was listed as a junior when in fact, she has now graduated. I apologize for the error. Sorry Savannah!
By, JOHN TORSIELLO
Despite a rough ending to the Warriors magical drive in the CIAC Class S tournament, the Wamogo softball team enjoyed a splendid season. The Warriors won 16 games during the regular season campaign, were ranked sixth in the tourney, and won three games before suffering a 14-0 loss to ninth-ranked Somers in the semifinals.
“Philosophically my belief is that every practice and every game should be fun in some way,” said head coach Dave Sylvester, whose team reached the state semifinals for the third straight year. “This season, as well as the past two, has made it exceptionally fun. As a team this success and the desire to get back there as well as team chemistry really has allowed for this team to succeed.”
Sylvester believes the turning point of his team’s season came during an extra inning victory against Shepaug the second time the teams met this spring. “They were a really good team this year and it changed our mental approach to the game.”
Wamogo began the season with seven straight wins before running into eventual Berkshire League champ, powerful Northwestern. The Warriors then dropped two of their next three games, including a non-league loss to Waterford by a lopsided, 15-0, count, but then righted the ship, taking eight of their last nine regular season contests with the only loss to, yep, Northwestern.
Wamogo opened the state tournament with an 11-2 win over 28th-ranked East Windsor, beat 12-ranked Shepaug, 4-2, in a matchup of BL teams, and then topped 12th-seeded Strafford, 4-3, to reach the semifinals.
One of the key reasons for Wamogo’s success this year, and there were more than a few, was the play of senior Savannah Wheeler, a Torrington resident and the daughter of Alan and Cheryl Wheeler. The slick fielding shortstop made both the All-State and All-Berkshire League teams after hitting .500 and driving in 19 runs, while scoring the same number. She had two homers, two triples, four doubles, drew eight walks and struck out only three times. She had an on base percentage of .557, a slugging percentage of .677, and a marvelous OPS of 1.235. She handled 48 chances at shortstop and made only six errors.
“This season was so much fun because you could tell everyone was there to play and to win and you can’t ask for much more in a team,” said Wheeler. “We played so well because we had a great coach behind us and he pushed us to work really hard on even the smallest things that would make us better. As soon as we entered states we hit a turning point where we knew without our number one pitcher anything could happen and that drove me and the rest of the team to play every game like it was going to be the last one, so we gave it everything we had and ended up making it pretty far.”
Sylvester commented on his star and what makes her tick on the softball field. “Savannah is a fierce competitor between the lines, yet understands it's a game of failure and does an outstanding job of balancing success and failure.”
He noted her improvement since joining the Wamogo program. “Without a doubt she has made major strides as a player. Her confidence in her abilities, her hard work in the off season, has proven results each and every year. Her overall game has improved both offensively and defensively. She has grown leaps and bounds in her mental approach to the game.”
Beyond the hits and solid play at shortstop, Wheeler contributed to the Warriors in other ways. “Savannah always comes ready to play with a positive attitude regardless of the day or the circumstances,” offered Sylvester. This is an attribute rarely seen in young student-athletes. This has a trickle-down effect on her team mates.”
In a season full of great moments for Wamogo, Wheeler had a number of her own personal highlights. Said Sylvester, “She had so many big moments in games throughout her career but the real key moment was after our first Northwestern game when she approached me as a player/captain and explained she was unhappy with the overall team approach going into games.” That led to soul searching by the team and a refocusing on collaborative goals and a positive approach that obviously paid dividends during the second half of the season and the state tournament.
Wheeler began in the game as so many kids do, as a youngster in search of a sport and something she could excel at. “I got started with softball when I was eight years old. I was attracted to softball because of my dad’s love for baseball. I tried swimming but found that I wanted to only focus on softball. The first year of me playing, I don’t think I put the ball in play until the last game of the season.” But that didn’t diminish her enjoyment of the game and desire to become better.
“My parents and my grandfather were the people who influenced me the most and encouraged me. The people I admire most are my teammates, because there was that part of me that always wanted to be the best. This sport is so unpredictable and you never know what’s coming next and I consider that the best part.”
As for her favorite moments on the field this year and during her career thus far as a whole, Wheeler thought for a while and then said, “In my career, I remember my grand slam against Northwestern to keep us in the lead and finally to win the game. “This year, my greatest highlight was my two home runs I hit in one game.”
As she leaves high school and prepares to take on the world, Wheeler will start by attending the University of Bridgeport this fall to study dental hygiene.
As for continuing to play after high school, Wheeler is taking a rather pragmatic approach, “A huge part of me wants to continue, but another part of me wants to focus on my major.”
Her coach, the man who has watched Savannah Wheeler have so many wonderful moments on the field and become a team leader, would love to see her continue playing in college. “Without a doubt she can play at the next level. Statistically, athletically, and academically she would be an outstanding collegiate student-athlete if that was what she chose.”
Wheeler left he mark on Wamogo softball and her determination will serve her well as she tackles the next stage of her life.