Will Raiders softball improvements lead to a deep run in the 2014 post season?
TORRINGTON: When I told Torrington junior standout Brittany Anderson that her softball teams regular season seems a little like the NBA, she laughed.
With a watered down Naugatuck Valley League this season, the number of quality games the Raiders have played could be counted on one hand.
It’s all but assumed that Torrington has another good chance at running the table to a perfect 19-0 regular season, a nice follow up to a perfect 20-0 a year ago.
This season will clearly be judged on two things.
Can the Raiders repeat as NVL Tournament Champions and more importantly, can they make a deep run into the Class L State Tournament?
It’s the elephant in the room, waiting to be introduced.
Why will this season be different from a year ago when the Raiders got bounced in the opening round of the States to a #16 seed?
One of the reasons could be the play of their outstanding centerfielder who comes to the park hustling and doesn’t stop until she is in the car on the ride home. Unless she hustles home as well.
“We have become such a tight knit group,” Anderson said. “Our offense has picked up tremendously from last year and we make sure we take it one game, one at-bat at a time.”
Torrington has Sydney Matzko and everybody else doesn’t could be another reason.
The senior, UNC bound flamethrower pitched a one-hit shutout (her twelve in a row) in a 14-0 win over Kennedy on Wednesday on a day where Matzko struggled (for her) in the early innings before retiring the final 13 in a row, nine on strikeouts.
Here’s how dominant Matzko is. We marvel when somebody gets on base from the other team.
On Wednesday, the Eagles had runners on base each of the first three innings. The horror!
With one out in the top of the first, Matzko gave up a long triple to opposing pitcher Yaixsa Vargas, who was held by manager Marlena Scialla rounding third.
Yeah, you might as well send the runner, you won’t get many more chances.
Walks in the second and third almost gave one a mortal feeling about Matzko but then order was restored and she retired those last 13 in a row.
Come post season time, basics are paramount to any team’s success and if anything good came out of Wednesday, it was that the Eagles bunted all afternoon long, exposing another change from a year ago for Anderson’s team.
A freshman, Alexis Tyrell, is playing an outstanding third base for head coach Maryanne Musselman and her skills were on display on Wednesday with three bunt defenses on the ground and a pair in the air.
One grab was filed under spectacular in the first inning after the Vargas one-out triple when Tyrell charged in and made the catch in foul territory for the second out of the inning.
Note to teams: if you want to have any chance against Matzko, score every time you get a runner near third base.
The biggest improvement from a year ago to date has clearly been the Raiders bats, which have looked so much better this season.
Sam Pelow, who was hurt at the end of last season, is playing a tremendous shortstop and wielding a big stick as well.
All Pelow does is make things happen when she’s at the plate, like she did on Wednesday.
Her first at bat led to a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the first. In the Raiders five run fifth, it was the senior shortstop who came through with a two-run double.
In all (include a bases loaded walk in the sixth) Pelow drove in four runs with just one hit.
Anderson, who batted leadoff on Wednesday, was 2-3 with four runs scored and one driven in on a deep home run to left in the sixth.
Up and down the Torrington lineup, somebody can hurt you.
Sara Heath (2-3, run, 2 RBI’s) is as solid a right handed bat as there is in the Raiders order, even her outs are loud.
Let’s not leave out junior catcher Marissa Morris, who has become a quiet leader behind the plate, calling the game for one of the State’s best arms and doing it with confidence.
Throw an RBI single and sacrifice fly into the mix for Morris on Wednesday.
Good fundamentals and sticks that don’t go silent in late May will be key for the Raiders as they look to make their mark on Class L this season.
Back to back tough games are on tap for the Raiders, both on the road when they travel to Waterbury to tangle with Holy Cross on Thursday and Naugatuck next Monday.
The NBA, I mean NVL regular season is starting to wind down but the expectations for a Torrington team that has now won 35 regular season games in a row will continue to grow.
Anderson and company are looking to change the script that tells the story of the 2014 campaign by continuing to do what they have all year long.