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St. Bernard softball, with an infusion of freshmen, has turned things around

Montville — There were times last year that the St. Bernard softball team would finish with just eight players, using two outfielders to cover the entire expanse of green.

The Saints lacked numbers, finishing 1-15 overall and 1-15 in Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II in a season where the league split its teams into northern and southern divisions to help cope with the ongoing pandemic.

On Tuesday, St. Bernard got one step closer to hanging a banner for the 2022 season, beating Putnam 15-0 in five innings in an ECC Division IV matchup that pushed the Saints to 12-3 overall, 7-0 in the league. St. Bernard can clinch the division outright with a win Saturday vs. Wheeler.

"A huge deal," St. Bernard coach Ray O'Donnell said of the turnaround. "We basically got mercied in like eight games last year, we finished eight games with eight kids. We just didn't have the numbers last year. But everybody came back, we worked on the fundamentals we worked on last year, we had a good addition of freshmen coming in.

"The majority of (the freshmen) are tournament players. They just came in and took their positions. They just came in and claimed their positions right away. They showed it through practices, showed it through the first scrimmage. It's a very good complement of kids; it really is."

Freshman Kaitlyn Scribner pitched a one-hitter against Putnam, striking out eight and walking two. She allowed a second-inning single to Autumn Allard.

The Saints were locked in a 0-0 tie with Putnam before breaking through with four runs in the third and adding four in the fourth and seven in the fifth. St. Bernard cleanup hitter Angelica Tompkins came to the plate with the bases loaded in the third and hit a fly ball into the swirling wind in right field, with the ball falling for a single. All three runs scored to get the Saints on the board and Tompkins scored on an ensuing passed ball.

Tompkins finished 2-for-4, adding a two-run triple in the fifth, and Madison Scribner had two hits, including a leadoff triple in the third.

The Saints roster features seven freshmen, four of whom were in the starting lineup Tuesday. Kaitlyn Scribner, who pitched a combined no-hitter against Tourtellotte in her last outing, is joined in the lineup by her twin sister Madison, who is the St. Bernard catcher and leadoff hitter. Second baseman Aubree Nygaard and designated player Olivia Kane are also freshmen. Tompkins, previously an All-ECC pick in soccer and basketball, is a sophomore.

"We got a lot of good freshmen in," Tompkins said. "The freshmen are carrying their weight on the team. There's a lot of them; holy cow."

"I think we've grown a lot since the beginning of the season," Kaitlyn Scribner said. "We've grown together."

O'Donnell is in his second season at St. Bernard. He was the head coach at Ledyard from 2002-14.

"Honestly, last year my youngest daughter (Mary) said, 'Hey, there's a job opening at St. Bernard and I'm not doing anything. You want to go coach?'" O'Donnell said. "I actually left Ledyard when my grandson (Alec) was born and he's 8 years old. I came came back and I'm having fun."

"He's a big man on believing that fundamentals is everything," Tompkins said. "He loves to joke but when we have to be serious, we're serious."

v.fulkerson@theday.com 

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