The Day's All-Area Softball Player of the Year: Waterford's Maddie Burrows
It was the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I championship game and Maddie Burrows, having thrown an elevated number of pitches the day before, was at shortstop. In the first inning with one out, she fielded a ground ball and let the throw fly to first baseman Anna Dziecinny.
For those unaccustomed to seeing Burrows play short this season, with Burrows getting the bulk of the innings as Waterford's ace pitcher, just that routine play was extraordinary, with the ball traveling across the diamond with an additional touch of zip.
Burrows is Waterford's pitcher, throwing a no-hitter in the Class L state semifinal game against Avon to lead the Lancers to the state championship game. Meanwhile, Walker calls Burrows "probably the best shortstop in the state."
Burrows, headed to Division I Villanova beginning next season, is The Day's 2022 All-Area Softball Player of the Year, earning that honor for the second straight season. She was 10-4 pitching with a 1.87 earned run average and 150 strikeouts over 97.1 innings and hit .538 with 10 home runs, 38 RBI, 45 runs scored and 35 stolen bases for the 22-5 Lancers.
"You always have Maddie Burrows, the pitcher, on the team and her gift of pitching," Walker said. "Unfortunately, a lot of people didn't see her gift at shortstop, see her showcase her talents at shortstop. The amount of ground she can cover, her acrobatic plays, throwing off one foot, it is unfortunate people didn't get to see her more playing the field. It really is fun to watch.
"She's looking to compete and she wants to win. She's driven for sure. That's why she's going to Villanova."
Burrows was the team's freshman second baseman in 2019 when the Lancers won the Class M title over Seymour. She came on to pitch three innings of scoreless relief, helping nail down the 6-5 victory.
With the 2020 season canceled due to the pandemic, Burrows took it upon herself to get better as a pitcher.
"I feel like I've been an infielder my whole life," Burrows said. "Throughout the whole pandemic, I prepared as good as I could for the season. I kind of perfected my screwball that year; that's when I first started throwing it. I taught most of my pitches to myself. ... Yeah, I loved playing shortstop (this season). It's kind of relieving in a way. I don't get to play there too often so I loved the games I did get to play there."
Burrows' brother, Jared, is a 2020 Waterford graduate and currently a right-handed pitcher for the Division I Bryant University baseball team. Jared was the winning pitcher in the Lancers' 2019 Class L state championship victory over Berlin, turning in a complete-game shutout with 10 strikeouts. He lost his senior season in high school to COVID-19 but was named 2020 Gatorade Connecticut Baseball Player of the Year.
Jared, two years ahead of Maddie, played in the 2015 New England Regional Little League Tournament in Bristol and the 2016 Babe Ruth 13-year-old World Series in Ottumwa, Iowa.
In 2017, Maddie's 12-year-old Little League softball team advanced to the East Regional in Bristol.
"I looked up to him and his accomplishments," Maddie Burrows said of her brother. "I never wanted him to get too much more than me. I think we went to Bristol two years later. He was there and it was like, 'Oh, we've totally got to go here.' It really proves that hard work pays off; you don't just get handed stuff, you know?"
"She's done a lot of great things," Jared Burrows said. "Overall, I'm really proud of her. It's impressive the stats she put up. Luckily, when I've come home from college, I've gotten to catch a few games. I tried to get to as many as I could. I saw her hit a couple of balls really far. We understand the work that we both put in. It's nice to be able to support each other in that way."
The success of both Burrowses has included a sense of understanding that there will be triumphs and failures in their careers.
"The competition definitely increases as you move up the levels. You're not always necessarily the best player on the field," Jared said. "You've just got to realize stuff like that's going to happen. What defines you is how you can bounce back."
"My dad instilled that in us," said Maddie, who said following the Class L championship game loss to Masuk that if she had one legacy to leave at Waterford she would want it to be her sportsmanship. "'You never know who's watching."
Burrows, Waterford's leadoff hitter, is a two-time Connecticut High School Coaches' Association all-state pick, a two-time GameTimeCT all-state selection and a three-time member of The Day's All-Area team.
She is playing her final travel season for the Rhode Island Thunder Gold 18U National team, which features other Division I signees who will attend N.C. State, Louisville, Syracuse and UConn. Burrows will major in English at Villanova and would like to be a writer.
"It's nothing too different right now, going down to New Jersey for a tournament," Burrows said. "In August, that's when everyone will start to leave. ... I'm really excited. I can't wait to be on campus, training with the whole team. I went down for admitted students day and saw the team play their Senior Day and me and my family went to UConn and watched their game up there. It got me really excited to get on campus and all that. I've been waiting since junior year."
Player of the Year - Maddie Burrows (Waterford)
Infield - Anna Donahue (Waterford), Samantha Money (Ledyard), Fiona Taber (Fitch), Madison Waltke (NFA)
Outfield - Lily Marelli (Waterford), Ava Roth (Old Lyme), Maddie Southers (Fitch)
Pitcher - Aaliyah Amidon (Ledyard), Charlotte Cabral (Fitch)
Catcher - Emma Marelli (Waterford)
Designated player - Maddy Stepski (Stonington)
Utility - Sophia Gannoe (East Lyme), Anna Dziecinny (Waterford)