For the Hun School softball team, beating Peddie in late April proved to be a double-edged sword when the rivals met again last Thursday in the state Prep A semifinal.
“I think we did have confidence but they came out fired up,” said Hun head coach Kathy Quirk. “They weren’t going to let us beat them again.”
Sure enough, host Peddie tallied three runs in the bottom of the first inning to jump out to a 3-0 lead. The Raiders answered back with two runs in the top of the third to narrow the gap to 3-2. In the bottom of the fourth, however, the Falcons broke through with four runs and never looked back on the way to an 8-3 win.
In reflecting on the loss, Quirk was disappointed about falling short but sees better things on the horizon.
“We had 11 hits but we couldn’t string them together,” said Quirk, noting that her team made crucial errors to aid the Peddie rallies.
“The only good thing is that we are young; we have a lot of girls coming back.”
The youthful Raiders showed growth as they rebounded from a sluggish start to end the spring at 9-7.
“We did better than our expectations,” said Quirk. “I never expected to win nine games this year.”
Junior pitcher Dani Beal played a key role in the team’s improvement. “I am proud of Dani and how she progressed,” asserted Quirk.
“Once she got confidence in herself and her teammates, she was really good. She pulled herself together.”
The return of junior catcher Carey Million to the lineup after an early-season wrist injury gave the Raiders a jolt of confidence.
“We missed Million when she was out,” added Quirk. “Once she got herself strong enough to both catch and hit, she was a big spark. I think she had three or four homers and hit around .500.”
Several of the squad’s younger players had strong campaigns. “Julia Blake, for a freshman, was phenomenal at shortstop, both hitting and defensively,” said Quirk.
“Joey Crivelli did a good job at third base. We moved her from second; she got a lot of hard hit balls and fielded bunts really well. She worked hard. Cait Hoagland did a nice job at first; she used her stretch to make some plays. She has a bright future. Kristen Manochio did a good job in center field; she also had some big hits.”
The team’s lone senior, outfielder Emily Kuchar, gave Hun a big lift emotionally.
“Emily was a four-year player and a two-year starter,” said Quirk. “Her enthusiasm everyday was invaluable.”
In order to build on this spring’s progress, the Hun players will need to be enthusiastic about their offseason training.
“I think the lesson is that hard work pays off,” said Quirk. “You can’t start on March 1. You have to lift weights over the winter. The girls need to have more upper body strength; it makes you stronger and more aggressive. I am excited, we have a great group coming back.”