Due to COVID-19 or coronavirus, sports teams worldwide have had their seasons canceled or postponed. While having had their regular season wiped out by the health crisis, the Cheshire Academy softball team was still able to finish the year unbeaten.
Prior to Connecticut locking down the state, the Cats traveled to Florida for a spring training trip and proceeded to post a 7-0 record from March 10-13 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando.
CA played against two teams from New Jersey, as well as other squads from Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
“It was super cool,” said infielder Riley Norwood. “I love playing teams from around the country because you get to see softball from outside of Connecticut. It was especially good to face Texas teams because they play year round and you want to see how you do against them.”
For the senior class of Norwood, catcher Brie Bavaro, and second baseman Julia Williamson, this year’s breakthrough was a matter of progression. Three years ago, CA had a losing record in Florida. The team went 3-3 in 2018 and then had a winning record last year.
“Our team has progressed so much,” reflected Norwood. “When I came on the team, we had few travel (softball) players and now almost all the girls play for travel teams.”
In sweeping seven games in Florida, the Cats posted five home runs and scored 83 runs.
“Our offense was huge,” stated Norwood. “We have two slappers who helped turn the lineup over. Everyone brings something to the table.”
In a 6-0 win over Bernards High School (New Jersey) on March 12, Mia Ferry hit two home runs and also pitched five innings to get the win.
“I’ve been playing with Mia for so long,” reflected Norwood. “To see her come in and do a great job in the circle and the (batter’s) box was awesome. I look forward to watching her play next year.”
As the catcher since eighth grade, Bavaro has helped the pitching staff have success.
“You can tell that she is the leader on the field,” stated Norwood. “When she joined in eighth grade, the team didn’t have a catcher and she stepped in right away.”
Along with playing games in Orlando, CA stayed at the Walt Disney Resort and received three day passes to the theme park.
“I’m very lucky to have had the opportunity to come here for a week,” said Norwood. “A lot of teams had their spring trips canceled.”
After returning home, the Cats learned that the rest of the season was canceled due to COVID-19.
“It is really sad, especially as a senior,” Norwood said.
The team had hoped to have an opportunity to play for a fourth straight New England Preparatory School Athletic Council crown this year. Bavaro and Norwood, contributed to the three crowns, while Williamson has been part of the last two title teams.
“The first one was very special, but I didn’t know what it meant back then,” said Norwood. “In winning the last two years, I’ve understood what we’ve done for building the history of Cheshire Academy softball.”
Since taking over at CA, Head Coach Samantha Cieri and Assistant Mike Greene had been to seven straight finals and won five championships.
“They’ve made me into the player I am today. I saw a huge jump from when I came into the program as a freshman to the end of that season,” explained Norwood. “They’ve (the coaches) also taught me so many life lessons that I’ll carry on with me for the rest of my life.”
While her softball career is over at CA, Norwood is excited to compete for Mount Saint Mary College in New York. In her recruiting process, MSMC was the first school that she visited.
“I wanted to see other schools, but I was comparing everything back to Mount St. Mary,” said Norwood, who was intrigued by the opportunity to play softball and major in nursing. “I love the campus and faculty.”
Samantha Howe coaches MSMC in the Skyline Conference.
“I would love to win the conference and play in Super Regionals,” Norwood said.
Norwood started playing softball at age 4.
“Growing up, I had to give up dancing or softball because I didn’t have the time to do both,” said Norwood. “I chose softball and haven’t looked back since.”
Norwood plays third base (CA) and shortstop (travel team).
“I absolutely love playing a lot of positions,” stated Norwood. “College coaches like that (versatility) because they can put you anywhere.”
When the health situation improves, Norwood wants to play for her travel squad, the Connecticut Lady Knights. Ferry and CA first-year shortstop Makena Dlugos also compete for that team.
“Travel softball is a big part of my life,” said Norwood. “You play three months with your high school team, but you are around your travel team for years. It is great to spend time with friends and stay in hotels.”