NEWINGTON - Newington head softball coach Steve Markie looked at the box score of his teamâ€™s loss to New Britain on Thursday and saw a painfully familiar trend.
The Indians and starting pitcher Dani Pantano allowed four runs to the Hurricanes, but three were unearned, a result of two errors and two passed balls that proved to be the difference in the game.
â€śOur defense needs work,â€ť Markie said. â€śWeâ€™re giving up too many unearned runs. Three of four [Thursday] and [Wednesday] we gave up six runs, and five were unearned. Dani is doing her job, and we need to do our job defensively.â€ť
Over the past two games, Newington has allowed a total of 10 runs, eight went unearned. The Indians escaped their defensive miscues on Wednesday against Middletown thanks to some heroics at the plate by Pantano and a wild pitch, but playing against a sound defensive team like New Britain on Thursday, the defensive woes were front and center.
â€śOnce we can get our defense up to as well as weâ€™ve been hitting and pitching, that would kick our season off to a really good start,â€ť Pantano said.
To the Indiansâ€™ credit, they have managed to mask their fielding struggles for the most part, holding a 3-2 record over their first five games thanks to that clutch hitting and the pitching of Pantano, but that can only hold up for so long. High school coaches throughout the area stress the importance of fundamental defense and minimizing mistakes, and as the season wears on and competition heats up, there will be a smaller margin for error, especially for Markieâ€™s established captains, who are being asked to do more and help mask some of the current defensive deficiencies that arise in a young and inexperienced group.
â€śI know some kids are really young at some positions, but thatâ€™s not really an excuse,â€ť Markie said. â€śIt puts a lot of pressure on our captains to produce, and theyâ€™re great players, but it puts a lot on them. Kids have played travel softball a lot, so throwing and catching are things we just have to keep working on.â€ť
For a team that has been struggling in the field for early on, Thursdayâ€™s loss didnâ€™t do any favors for Newingtonâ€™s confidence, as an error and a passed ball led to two runs for the Hurricanes in the first two innings.
â€śI guess itâ€™s somewhat deflating to get behind early in games and have to dig out of that hole,â€ť Markie said.
The Indians have been doing plenty of defensive work in practice and before games, but the seasonâ€™s troubles still may linger in the back of their minds, including Pantano, who tries to navigate through rough defensive stretches from within the circle. A shaky defense may make things more trying for the junior, but sheâ€™s not making any excuses. Nor is anyone on the Indians. They just know they need to be better.
â€śIt can change how I have to approach a hitter in different situations, but at the same time, I still have to make my pitches,â€ť Pantano said. â€śI feel like we can win a lot more games as long as we keep improving.â€ť
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org