Saybrook Softball Looking Solid with New Coaching Staff
Senior captain Christina Lombardi and the Old Saybrook softball squad notched their first win of the year with a victory over Hale-Ray on April 14. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Junior Mackenna Cooke went 2-for-3 with a double and a run in the Rams’ victory against Hale-Ray on April 14. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain Jenna Tully bats cleanup for the Rams and plays a sure-handed third base for Old Saybrook. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
The Old Saybrook softball squad opened its season last week taking the field for the first time since 2019 with games against Old Lyme and Hale-Ray . With a split of the two contests, first-year Head Coach Melissa Martin’s squad moved its record to 1-1 to start the year.
The Rams dropped their first contest of the year in a 16-1 road loss against Old Lyme. Old Saybrook grabbed its first win with an 8-4 victory in the squad’s home opener against Hale-Ray.
The Rams roster has undergone plenty of changes since 2019, as has their coaching staff. Coach Martin is serving her first year with Old Saybrook, and this is Assistant Coach Steve Waters’s first year with Rams’ softball. Coach Martin joined the Rams after serving as an assistant coach at Hale-Ray, and coincidentally, Martin earned her first win as a head coach against the Noises.
“When it comes to coaching staffs, Hale-Ray has a brand new staff,” said Martin. “I’ve known some of the girls on that team since they were in 4th grade. It was a bittersweet win. It was a kind of reunion, but we were competitive in that I wanted to win, and they wanted to win.”
On April 14, the Rams earned an 8-4 home victory over the Noises. Old Saybrook got on the board with four runs in the bottom of the first inning. Hale-Ray responded with a run in the top of the third to make it 4-1. Old Saybrook added two more runs in the fifth and sixth innings to make it 8-1. Hale-Ray scored three runs in the top of the seventh inning, but it was too little too late.
Senior pitcher and lead off hitter Christina Lombardi had a strong day at the plate going 2-for-3 with a double, a walk, a stolen base, and three runs scored. Coach Martin has quickly ascertained that Lombardi can be relied upon to put in the work to get better.
“Christina’s going to be working hard. She has two key roles in pitching and batting lead off. She works really well with our catcher Ella Hagelston,” said Martin. “She also puts in the work on defense. She’s a quick runner, and she’s quick with her bat speed. She can get up there and have a little fun on offense.”
Lombardi’s battery mate, junior catcher Ella Hagelston went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and a steal. Coach Martin has Hagelston hitting in the two-hole, and it paid off against Hale-Ray.
“Ella’s been great catching for us. She can also go play in the outfield if we need to. She bats second for us, and she moves around the bases,” Martin said. “She played a great game against Hale-Ray. She always makes the pitcher look good by keeping the ball in front of her, too.”
Fellow junior Mackenna Cooke was also integral in the Rams’ win going 2-for-3 with a double and a run scored.
Earlier in the week on April 12, Old Saybrook took a tough 16-1 loss against Old Lyme. Coach Martin thought that the loss to the Wildcats was a great learning opportunity for the Rams.
“Our goal each game is to be the first team to score, and we were up 1-0 in the top of the first. Unfortunately, in the bottom of the inning we gave up 13 runs,” Martin said. “The rest of the game we were solid. So we took a deep breath and a step back, and we decided not to let that half inning define our season.”
Coach Martin thought that the loss to Old Lyme informed the Rams’ approach at their next practice.
“We figured out what we needed to work on. We chose which direction [we wanted] to go for the rest of the season. We decided that we wanted to play fearlessly. We walked onto the field against Hale-Ray with the confidence that we could win that game,” Martin said. “Our win against Hale-Ray showcased that process. We learned from our loss, practiced, and executed our game plan. We won that game in the practice before.”
Part of what made that practice successful was the help from senior captains like Lombardi, Jenna Tully, Kate Heiden, and Kendall Kollmer. Coach Martin loves what that group brings to the table.
“They’ve all been great. They are the bridge between the coaches and the players,” said Martin. “They are an extension of the coaching staff, and they are doing a great job of taking the younger players under their wing. All of them are solid players who practice what they preach and lead by example.”
Not only are the senior captains solid leaders, but they are effective in the field as well.
“Jenna Tully bats clean up and plays third base. She’s great in the field. Against Hale-Ray, she had six chances and made them all,” said Martin. “Kate Heiden is quick to the ball at second base, and she does a good job of knocking balls down. She works hard at getting to the ball up the middle and making the play at first base. Kendall Kollmer is the type of player who’s hard to come by. She can play anywhere. There’s no hesitation from her to play whatever position we ask to the best of her ability. She has a great attitude, and she’s very smart. People want to learn from her and do what she’s doing.”
Coach Martin feels privileged to be able to coach this Old Saybrook team. The first year as a head coach is full of potential pitfalls, but Coach Martin feels that the Rams are making her job as smooth as can be.
“I feel really lucky that I have girls like this in my first year coaching. They have done more than I could have expected transitioning into a new coaching staff. They have gone above and beyond,” Martin said. “They are fun to be around. They just love the game and want to have an opportunity to go out and play the game they love with their friends. They make my job a lot easier and more enjoyable, I think. I’m just really fortunate. No matter what happens I will hold that in my heart.”