With a new battery, there was some uncertainty as to how Hand would fare this season.
The Tigers split their first six games, as pitcher Katie Omdahl and catcher Mel Rennie, both juniors, adjusted to their new roles.
A recent six-game winning streak, though, put Hand back into the mix for the Southern Connecticut Conference Hammonasset Division title and a league tournament berth.
Hand (11-4) is one game behind division leader Law, although the Tigers have lost to the Eagles twice. Hand has already qualified for the Class LL state tournament.
“I’m very satisfied, overall, with how our team has played,” Hand coach Mike Niekrash said.
Omdahl, who caught last season, took over in the circle for Annie Horton, who graduated. Omdahl has pitched during the summer travel season and during middle school, but she appeared in just a handful of varsity games before this season.
“It’s definitely been different,” Omdahl said. “It took awhile for me to adjust, but once I got started, I feel like I started to hit my spots again.”
Said Niekrash: “She’s done a real good job. Katie is a warrior. When she gets on the mound, she doesn’t want to lose. She will battle all the way through. She’s done a great job. She’s kept us in every game. I’m very happy with how she’s done.”
Being a former catcher has helped Omdahl in the circle.
“It’s helped mainly with the strike zone,” Omdahl said. “I can map it out better, and I know what kind of pitches are going to be called in different situations.”
Omdahl and Rennie have been battery mates before, but it’s been more than two years since Rennie last caught for Omdahl. Rennie, who played at first last season, calls every pitch. Omdahl, although not overpowering, does an effective job of hitting her spots and keeping hitters off-balanced.
“We work a lot on off-speed pitches because we know she’s not going to strike out everyone,” Rennie said. “We try to keep people off-balanced, and we focus a lot on trying to get to the extremes of the plate.”
Rennie, who was an all-SCC selection as a sophomore, is also one of the team’s top hitters.
“She’s obviously one of the leaders on our team,” Niekrash said. “Both with the bat and behind the plate.”
Hand won three of four games last week, only losing to Law, which snapped the Tigers’ winning streak. Hand was shut out in that game, but the Tigers are still averaging nine runs per game.
“We’ve been playing good defense, and we’ve been scoring a ton of runs,” Niekrash said.
In addition to Omdahl and Rennie being at new positions, two freshmen also start: Lily Geshwind at third base and Hollis Wivell in left field.
“They had to get integrated into our system,” Niekrash said. “But they both fit very well into our lineup.”