Houle trying to keep Stonington softball team on point

Stonington softball coach Ann-Marie Houle made a trip to the pitcher’s mound in the late innings last week, her team in a dicey situation against Griswold, meeting pitcher Andrea Chiaradio, catcher Julie Royer and the Bears’ infielders.

Suddenly, laughter.

“I went out in that inning and said, ‘A priest walks into a bar,’” Houle said. “The kids play better loose. I didn’t have a punch line, just that part.”

“First she told us a joke that wasn’t funny,” Royer said.

Houle, whose team is 11-2 overall, 5-1 in the Eastern Connecticut Conference Medium Division heading into today’s divisional matchup against New London, has tried to keep things as normal as possible for Stonington since the Bears faced a wave of notoriety following a perfect game by Chiaradio on April 21. Chiaradio’s perfect day featured 21 strikeouts – every batter – and she has since been featured on TV and in Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd section.

Chiaradio is 6-2 with a 1.03 ERA so far, striking out 104 and walking 12. Griswold beat the Bears last Wednesday in their first meeting of the season, 3-2 in eight innings.

“We try to stay loose, stay giggling, me anyway,” Royer said. “We’re just trying to play our game. Definitely, Andrea’s handled it really well.”

Houle said things have been unchanged with her team.

“I was screaming bloody murder at theWoodstockgame even though we were winning 10-0,” Houle said. “That (perfect game) is not who we are.”

Houle gives a lot of credit to Royer, who calls her own pitches.

“Julie’s probably the best framer (of pitches) we’ve had,” Houle said. “She works hard to control that part of the game. She’s stepped up more than we could ever ask for this season. She gets it. Don’t misunderstand her looseness. Last year sometimes it drove me crazy; this year she’s grown up.”

Griswold coach Rick Arremony, whose daughters Stephanie and Jess were both all-state pitchers, called Chiaradio a “true pitcher.”

“I think she’s pretty consistent,” Arremony said. “When she wanted to throw a strike, she can throw it. But she’s a nibbler. She wants to go through the whole at-bat without throwing a strike.”

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