MOODUS >> Powered by a confident senior battery, a speedy outfield, and a group of versatile hitters who can either beat you with line drives, slap hits or bunts, the Hale Ray softball team earned the best record in the Shoreline Conference this spring.
And despite ending their season with non-league losses against Class M Griswold and Class L Berlin, the Noises appear armed and ready to party like it’s 2011.
Yes, it’s been six years since the Noises won the SLC tournament. Behind then-pitcher Katelyn Nichisti and Shoreline MVP Morgan Humble, Hale Ray also went on to win the school’s fifth Class S title that season.
“This game is going to get us ready for the postseason,” Noises senior catcher Aidan Fiala said after unbeaten Griswold topped Hale Ray, 11-3, on Wednesday night at Lou Milardo Field.
Two seasons ago, the Noises made a run to the Class S semifinals as a No. 22 seed. Last spring, East Granby edged the Noises, 1-0, in the second round.
Griswold, the 19-0 No. 10-ranked team in the GameTimeCT/Register Top 10, broke open Wednesday’s game with three runs in the fifth and three more in the seventh.
But the Noises showed why they went 16-4 overall and 15-1 in the Shoreline this season.
Hale Ray’s speedy outfield trio of sophomore Skyler Rapuano, and juniors Callie Burke and Isabelle Hajak, made a number of outstanding plays; Rapuano, who went 4-for-4, fueled a rally from a 3-0 deficit with a pair of bunt singles. Fiala tied it at 3 with a clutch two out single in the third.
“I don’t think the score was indicative of how close the game really was,” Hale Ray coach Sue Miner said. “Towards the end the wheels kind of came off a little bit.
“I’m pleased knowing that we played to this level against a tough opponent. I’m happy where this puts us forward in our conference and going into the state tournament.”
Hale Ray started the season with 11-straight victories. Class L Law ended the Noises’ win streak with a 15-9 victory in Milford on May 1. A few days later, the Noises suffered their only Shoreline loss, a 6-5 setback at East Hampton.
“I knew we would be better this year but I was surprised how successful we were at the beginning,” Fiala said.
For senior pitcher Katrina Ceceri, the Noises’ fast start had added significance. Ceceri earned pitching wins against four teams she had never beaten: Haddam-Killingworth, Coginchaug, Morgan, and two-time defending league champion North Branford.
“We had some goals at the beginning of the season and defeating those four teams was one of them,” said Ceceri, who has 108 strikeouts in 107 innings with a 2.01 ERA. “I was so happy. It’s nice to experience it your senior year when it’s your last chance to do it.”
Ceceri and Fiala, the Noises’ co-captains and only seniors, were honored in a nice pre-game Senior Night ceremony on Wednesday. Ceceri will play at Eastern Connecticut State next season, while Fiala plans on studying nursing at Florida Gulf Coast.
“They’ve been working great together all four years,” Miner said. “They’re both very focused this season.”
The Noises’ offense is spearheaded by lead-off hitter Hajak (.610, 36 runs), Rapuano (.474, 26 runs, 25 RBIs), and Burke (.449, 22 RBIs).
“Their speedy on the basepaths and their dangerous with the short game or with hitting the ball hard,” Miner said. “I’m really lucky to have them in the outfield this year. They do a really great job.”
Hale Ray’s lineup has been also bolstered by the play of freshman infielder Erin Molkenthin (.367, 11 RBIs), sophomore infielders Jacey Clarke and Hannah Lemke, and junior first baseman Nicole Trapp (.354, 12 RBIs).
“As the season went on our team got closer and closer,” Fiala added. “We all knew how to lift each other up when we were down and we all knew how to work together really well.”
Two-time defending Class S champion Holy Cross-Waterbury, Notre Dame-Fairfield, and East Granby loom down the road for the Noises in the state tournament. First, Hale Ray will look to end North Branford’s two-year reign in the SLC tournament.
“I think we’re ready to get to the next level,” Fiala said.