GUILFORD >> There will come a time when Hollis Wivell hits the road to suit up for the Florida-based national powerhouse travel ball Gold Coast Hurricanes before arriving at UConn for the next stage of her softball odyssey, but there are still some things to tend to closer to home.
Wivell has played a starring role as the Hand softball team ended the regular season on a six-game winning streak, which is second only to top-ranked Cheshire among Southern Connecticut Conference teams heading into the SCC tournament.
The senior shortstop is setting her sights high in her final high school season.
“My goals are to win everything. We kind of have flown under the radar, we got a couple votes in the top 10 (poll),” Wivell said after Friday’s 7-3 win over Guilford. “My goal is to win SCCs and states, to upset the Cheshires and Amitys. Amity has beaten us twice, so it is my goal to come out and win it.”
It won’t take long for Wivell to get her wish as the fifth-seeded Tigers play at Amity, the team responsible for two of the Tigers’ five regular-season losses, on Wednesday in the SCC quarterfinals. If Hand emerges victorious, a potential semifinal showdown with Cheshire could be on the horizon on Thursday if the Rams beat Foran on Wednesday.
Whoever Hand plays in the SCC and CIAC Class L tournaments, the same aggressive approach the Tigers have used in averaging more than 11 runs in the current winning streak will be on display.
“We’ve been really good recently at hopping on it and making them make plays, at least put balls in play,” Wivell said.”
The speedy Wivell, who is hitting .475 with 25 runs scored and 20 stolen bases, is the catalyst of it all as the red-hot Tigers’ dynamic leadoff hitter. She is backed up by a batting order featuring three sets of sisters.
In the victory against Guilford, Caroline and Sophie Schreck combined for five hits including three doubles while Lily Geshwind, the older of the sister duo hitting No. 3 and 4 in the order, started the scoring with a solo homer to right field.
“There are five sets of sisters all on the varsity roster,” Wivell said. “We’ve all been playing together, all-stars, minors, pee wees so we are all family but it is actually funny when we have actual family as much as we do. The pitcher/catcher (Abigail and Lily Geshwind), DP/third base (the aforementioned Schreck sisters), right field/first base (Hannah and Kaitlyn Martin). The center fielder (Gina Ciotti) is my little cousin so it is whole family affair and I honestly couldn’t ask for a better team.”
Wivell won’t have much time to transition to her summer ball team as the Gold Coast Hurricanes play a tournament in Atlanta the same weekend that the CIAC state champions are crowned.
Obviously, a deep postseason run would delay Wivell’s transition to playing for the powerful Hurricanes, a roster featuring six current players who have committed or signed to play in the Southeastern Conference. There will be tournaments in New Jersey and Colorado before embarking for Texas for the Triple Crown National Championship with the summer culminating in California with the USA/ASA Junior Olympic Cup in July.
Former state stars Rachele Fico and Sydney Matzko are among the impressive list of former Gold Coast Hurricanes. Wivell followed a similar path to getting seen on a national stage. She began opening eyes playing her summers in Connecticut before a successful run with the Rhode Island Thunder, the team she was playing for when the college scouts got serious about recruiting Wivell.
The recruiting interest heated up when she was a freshman and by the following summer she committed to play for newly-hired Jen McIntyre at UConn.
“When offers came together, I kind of knew I wanted to commit around then,” said Wivell, who expected to play outfield for the Huskies. “I laid out all of my options, went on all of my unofficial visits, UConn seemed to be the best fit. I walked on campus, I loved the coaches, the coaches are new, I loved the team and just loved it.”
Wivell will become the second SCC star to suit up for McIntyre at UConn. Former Amity All-State pitcher Katie Koshes led the Huskies with eight wins, a 2.73 earned run average and 122 strikeouts as a freshman.
The six incoming freshmen also features another in-state product in Barlow’s Briana Marcelino who finished the regular season batting .662 with 10 doubles, 10 home runs, 37 runs, 39 RBIs and 19 stolen bases. She had two homers and drove in three runs in a win over Notre Dame-Fairfield in the SWC quarterfinals.
Wivell knows Marcelino well. Not only are they teammates with the Gold Coast Hurricanes, but Marcelino grew up in Madison before her family moved.
“It is awesome because before Jen McIntyre came in, there weren’t many Connecticut girls, we were getting overlooked, we weren’t getting looked at much,” Wivell said. “It is cool to see Connecticut girls come out, play for their state school and kill it. It will be really fun to have more Connecticut people on the team.
“It was crazy, she moved out in middle school. We always played together, we were always good friends. We lost touch and kind of reconnected. It is a small world, it is really awesome.”
Marcelino and Wivell should head to Storrs game tested thanks to their time with the Hurricanes. Last summer the team placed second in the Junior Olympic Cup and placed in the top 10 in the Triple Crown Nationals and Colorado Sparkler tournament.
“It has brought my game to a whole other level,” Wivell said. “The whole essence of the mental side of the game, I never really looked into it because you play, you play hard, you get hits and you don’t really think but my base running, my mentality, the counts, the way I interact with my teammates, honestly I think it has all come from that team.”