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    Friday, June 21, 2024

    Waltke is back and NFA’s offense is strong; Wildcats beat Vikings 11-2 in ECC DI softball

    Norwich Free Academy’s Sophie Miner (8) dives into second base past East Lyme’s Natalie Knowlton (8) during a softball game on Monday. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Norwich Free Academy’s teammates cheer on Madison Waltke (1) not pictured, after hit a home run during a game against East Lyme on Monday. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Norwich Free Academy’s Madison Waltke (1) turns after throwing out East Lyme’s Grace DuBrava (12) at third base during a softball game on Monday. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    East Lyme’s Abby Robinson (7) throws a pitch during a softball game against NFA on Monday. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Norwich Free Academy’s Sophie Miner (8) dives for a ball in the outfield during a home game against East Lyme on Monday. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Norwich — There are times the Norwich Free Academy softball team will spend an entire practice on offense, which is not entirely surprising if you’ve seen the Wildcats hit.

    “The best hitting team in the league consistently 1-9,” East Lyme coach Judy Deeb said Monday in praise of NFA.

    “It’s something we’re very proud of,” NFA senior third baseman Madison Waltke said. “At the beginning of the season, we didn’t come out so hot; we lost some games we definitely should have won. But we kind of took the momentum after beating Waterford. We took those bats and just carried it through.”

    With Waltke in the middle of things, returning this year after knee surgery that cost her a junior season, NFA defeated East Lyme 11-2 Monday, batting around in the first and fourth innings and hammering out 14 hits.

    Waltke, who has committed to play at the Division I level for Quinnipiac, was 4-for-4 with a double, solo home run to left in the sixth inning and four RBI. It was the sixth homer of the season for Waltke, who was an all-state shortstop for NFA prior to her injury but has since moved to third base with another all-stater in Melina Graziano at short.

    The Wildcats are 10-5 overall, 5-1 in Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I, tied for first place with defending regular-season and ECC Division I tournament champion Waterford, which is also 5-1 in league play.

    NFA defeated Waterford 7-2 on April 24, but lost to Fitch 9-8 in the division. The Wildcats played back-to-back nonleague games Friday and Saturday last week, beating eighth-ranked Amity 6-1 before falling to Brookfield 2-0.

    They’ll now face Fitch in a rematch Wednesday before meeting Waterford again in their regular-season finale on May 15.

    “I think since (beating Waterford), we’ve really been on a tear,” NFA coach Athena Jaskiewicz said. “We’ve had really great energy and we’ve been playing with confidence. We’ve been playing even more as a team. We’re settling in. It’s game 15 but we’re feeling like we can make a big, long stretch.

    “I think we’re seeing the ball great.”

    Sophie Miner and Ava Boenig added two hits each for the Wildcats, who got at least one hit from everyone in the lineup. Brooke Stringer had a two-run single in the first, with NFA grabbing a 5-0 lead, and winning pitcher Hailey Smith drove in two with a single in the fourth.

    East Lyme’s Karly Sorrentino had two hits and two RBI in her first game back after an injury, including a line drive home run to center field in the top of the seventh.

    Also for the Vikings (9-6, 2-4), senior pitcher Abby Robinson struck out nine, giving her 592 career strikeouts, which ties the all-time record held by former East Lyme great Laura (Scarpa) Regnere (Class of 1997).

    “You can tell by her demeanor that she’s always like that,” East Lyme’s Deeb said of the even-keeled Robinson, who will play beginning next year at Springfield College. “The same demeanor. It’s the same demeanor the whole entire time. She’s always been that way (since her freshman year).”

    As for Waltke, she made a comeback last summer with the Connecticut Charmers, where she bashed in the vicinity of 15 home runs, she said, followed by her commitment in the fall to Quinnipiac.

    “It’s like she never left,” Jaskiewicz said of Waltke. “I mean, our left side of the infield is pretty solid. There’s really nothing that’s getting by her or Melina, so it’s incredible.

    “She’s confident. She’s a confident but she’s also a humble kid. She’s smooth. She always knows what she’s doing.”

    v.fulkerson@theday.com

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