Despite graduating 11 seniors, this season has been far from a rebuilding year for Cheshire. The Rams are unbeaten (16-0), and a legitimate threat to capture the program’s first state title.
Cheshire advanced to the Class LL championship game before losing to Southington last season. That loss has fueled and motivated the returning players.
“I just think that our leaders do not let us budge at all,” Cheshire coach Kristine Drust said. “We got a taste of that real success and the ultimate for a high school team last year. I just think that the hunger stayed with all the returning players. We kept hearing that we graduated 11 seniors, and does that mean that this year is rebuilding for us. They just did not accept that.
“We started in the weight room and working out in August and September, and that was their call. It’s helped that our freshmen have stepped up. Our freshmen have stepped up because of what our leaders have done with them.”
Although Cheshire is one of the state’s most athletic teams, the Rams’ mental approach has proved invaluable.
“I just think it’s just keeping the game small,” Drust said. “We just keep everything small. When we make mistakes, I’m not a screamer; it’s just about learning. If you make a mistake, learn from your mistakes. I am really big on energy, and making sure we’re mentally tough and mentally prepared for situations. At practice, that’s what we work on. We work on pressure situations and making the ball important. It’s just about preparing hard and practicing hard.”
The Rams are averaging close to nine runs per game. The Cheshire offense is led by Abby Abramson, a junior pitcher, cleanup hitter Sam Simione, a junior center fielder, Hannah Salvietti, a junior third baseman, and senior catcher Megan Hodgdon.
Several underclassmen have also contributed, including sophomore left fielder Sara Mulligan and freshmen Alexis Hemstock (right field), Bri Floyd (second base) and Mia Juodaitis (shortstop).
“We work a lot on our hitting,” Mulligan said. “Coach Drust tells us to attack every strike. We just really been getting up to the plate and focusing on that.”
Abramson has emerged as one of the state’s top pitchers. Abramson did not pitch at all last season for the Rams, and tossed only a few innings as a freshmen.
“She is just fearless,” Drust said. “Her preparation has put her in this position to be successful. This is her passion; she wants it. All that put together makes her a confident player.”
Abramson started at shortstop last season. She played that position and pitched for her summer team, the Cheshire Wildcats.
“In the summer, I focused on pitching, and also at shortstop,” Abramson said. “But then in the offseason, I just really focused on pitching with my catcher, Megan, and we worked really hard.”
NVL tournament update
The NVL tournament is expected to begin with the quarterfinal round on Saturday at the site of the higher seed. That’s if all remaining games are completed this week.
The current seeds are: 1. Seymour; 2. Holy Cross; 3. Torrington; 4. St. Paul; 5. Oxford; 6. Watertown; 7. Naugatuck; 8. Woodland.
Oxford is the defending champion.
The semifinals are scheduled for May 23 at Naugatuck, and the championship game is scheduled for May 25 at the same site.