Cromwell pitcher Lily Kenney struck out nine in four innings of scoreless work during the Panthers 12-run win last Monday
Pitcher Lily Kenney has picked up right where she left off last season.
Kenney, who is coming off an all-state season as a sophomore last spring, opened the 2022 season with a 14-strike performance in a 6-1 over Coventry on April 2 and then pitched four efficient innings, striking out nine in a 13-1 win over East Hampton on April 4.
“She sets the tone and the others follow,” Cromwell head coach Angelo Morello said of his ace. “She’s bigger and stronger this year. There’s a big difference.”
Kenney is one of five all-conference players—along with Jamie Anderson, Madison Tessmer, Grace McFarlin, and Malena Signorello—who are back for Panthers this spring.
All five made impacts in the win over East Hampton.
In the top of the first, Kenney struck out the top of the order in a dozen pitches.
Anderson then led off the bottom of the inning with a walk. Two batters later, Anderson scored when catcher Victoria Wiatrak connected on a hit through the middle.
Kenney, Wiatrak, McFarlin, and Samantha Smith added runs in the inning, providing Cromwell a 5-0 cushion after the first inning.
The Panthers added four more in the second inning to break the game wide open.
Kenney tripled to lead off the bottom of the second, before Wiatrak drove her home with a deep hit to center field. Wiatrak, Signorello, and Esposito each crossed home plate later in the inning.
Morello said he likes the experienced bats supporting Kenney, pointing to the team’s seniors (Anderson, Tessmer, Smith, and Esposito) and the team’s increased confidence at the plate.
“The girls know we have an opportunity for a special year,” added Morello. “It’s going to be about staying healthy, keeping the bench players involved and keeping them ready.”
The challenge this season will be getting through the regular season gauntlet of the always competitive Shoreline Conference (SLC). Cromwell finished fourth a season ago behind North Branford, Coginchaug, and Haddam-Killingworth. The Thunderbird of North Branford took home a fourth straight SLC championship last spring.
“I told them from the beginning that the three teams that finished ahead of us last year were 5-1 against us,” recalled Morello. “We have to change that. If you want to be the best you have to beat the best.”
Kenney will play a major role in helping the Panthers quest to reach the Shoreline summit. She had a special connection with last year’s catcher Monica Dewey, who graduated, and she is currently building a good rapport with Wiatrak behind the plate.
Morello, who is coaching in his ninth season, said that Kenney and the extra year of maturity from the roster will give them a chance against any team in the state.
“I have eight solid players behind [Kenney] and that has been the difference,” added Morello. “We need 21 outs and if Lily is striking out 10 to 12 players the ball is not in play as much and the mistakes come down. It’s less pressure on the defense.”
Cromwell sophomore Victoria Wiatrak picks up a hit during the Panthers 13-1 win over East Hampton on April 4
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin