Hornets Back in the Swing of Things This Spring
Senior captain Lily Hitchcock and the Branford softball squad are hoping to make a postseason push and reach the Class L State Tournament this spring. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain Kaitlyn Dugan and the Hornets secured a 17-1 victory against Hillhouse on April 24. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Senior Isabelle Michaud and the Hornets are still adjusting to life on the diamond after missing the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Junior Marzia Johnson and the Hornets have a 2-5 record thus far on the campaign. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
The Branford softball team returned to the field with a veteran roster this spring. After the Hornets were unable to make states in 2019, Head Coach Tori Ramada is hoping that they can make a nice run into the postseason in 2021.
“We are so happy to be back on the field this year. The girls have been looking forward to it for a very long time,” said Ramada. “It has been an adjustment as far as rebuilding that routine of practicing every day and, if not practicing, playing games. But the girls are working really hard.”
Branford had four games on its schedule last week and came away with one victory. The Hornets took losses against Guilford, Shelton, and Mercy before earning a 17-1 win over Hillhouse to move to 2-5 on the year.
Branford played road games versus Guilford and Shelton on April 19 and 20, respectively, taking 12-0, five-inning defeats in both contests. The Hornets returned home for a matchup with Mercy on April 23 and lost the game by a 20-4 score in five innings. Branford finished its week by posting a 17-1 home victory against Hillhouse the following day.
Coach Ramada said that her squad is getting used to playing softball again following a two-year layoff.
“This week was tough for the girls. Since it has been two years, it’s hard for these girls to get back into the swing of things, and that is a major adjustment,” Ramada said. “We have a lot of season left. We take it a game at a time, so we can move forward and not harp on it.”
Branford bounced back from those losses and wrapped up its week with a convincing win versus Hillhouse. Coach Ramada has seen many programs around the SCC struggle with numbers and be unable to field JV teams. Branford’s matchup with Hillhouse gave the Hornets an opportunity to field some players who don’t typically see varsity playing time.
“Unfortunately, a lot of schools are struggling with numbers in their softball programs, so the chances of having full JV games has been tough,” Coach Ramada said. “After securing a solid lead, it was a solid time to get my JV players in and have them implement what they’ve been doing during practices. It was so nice to have that opportunity.”
Branford is being led by three senior captains in catcher/first baseman Sophia Esposito, center fielder Kaitlyn Dugan, and infielder/catcher Lily Hitchcock. Coach Ramada said that all three captains have grown as both softball players and leaders, despite having to miss their junior seasons.
“They all really contribute to the team very well. They are extremely transparent with the girls and maintain a good relationship with each of them on and off the field,” said Ramada. “Although they did not have a season last year, they really stepped up as leaders their sophomore year.”
Branford’s roster also seniors shortstop/pitcher Isabelle Michaud, senior third baseman/shortstop Francesca Valletta, and catcher/outfielder Paige Richardson. The Hornets’ junior class includes third baseman/catcher Hailey Seay, shortstop/pitcher Marzia Johnson, third baseman/outfielder Jenna Barba, and outfielder/catcher Carley Ortiz.
As her team plays through the season, Coach Ramada believes that Branford’s veteran athletes are going to play a crucial role both on and off the field.
“A lot of my upperclassmen have been playing softball together since they were little. They have a good bond, are motivated, and enjoy playing together,” Ramada said. “It’s like a ripple effect. The underclassmen enjoy looking up to them and, when it’s their turn to be leaders, they will step up. Honestly, we’re focusing on the present and our goals for this season, especially since we missed last year.”
Coach Ramada knows that the Hornets are still adjusting to changes from two seasons ago. Branford has a brand new defensive alignment from the infield to the outfield this year. As the Hornets become acclimated to their new roles, Ramada believes the team can minimize its mistakes in the field.
Branford’s players understand that it is difficult to win if you give the other team extra outs. Ramada feels confident that the Hornets’ hard work will pay off and that they will continue to improve more and more with every game. Then, hopefully, Branford can qualify for that Class L State Tournament that was just out of reach two years ago.
“One of our biggest goals this year is to make states. We made that goal at the end of the 2019 season, because we were one game shy. This year, we are still working towards that goal,” said Ramada. “We want to be successful. In order to do that, we make small goals as individual players and for the entire team.”