FAIRFIELD — Allie Clark is not one of the players who was going to elude the gaze of opposing coaches this spring. That doesn’t mean, after two weeks, they have had any easier of a time getting the Fairfield Ludlowe softball team’s senior shortstop out than two years ago, when she earned All-FCIAC honors.
Out of the leadoff spot, where she sets the tone for the Falcons, Clark is hitting .611, with three home runs, two doubles, 11 runs scored and four RBIs.
Ludlowe coach Lou Bunosso toyed with the idea of putting Clark in the No. 3 spot because she would be a perfect fit — Clark would be a perfect fit anywhere. Bunosso said he didn’t feel there was another player on the roster that could work the count and either draw a walk, put down a bunt or get an extra-base hit. Clark is the archetypical catalyst.
That has been fine with Clark, who has grown accustomed to that spot in the order.
“My whole life I’ve been a leadoff hitter,” Clark said. “They fooled around with putting me third or fourth at one point over the winter. My mindset my whole life has been to be the one to get on base and score. I’m really looking to get to first any way I can, whether that be a walk, a base hit, a home run. I try my best to avoid giving them outs or giving up strikes; being patient at the plate is big with me. The mindset of being the leadoff hitter is so much different than being the third hitter and trying to either move the runner over or bring her in. I just like going out there, it’s almost like a clean slate. I have confidence in myself to get the job done.”
In a sport where succeeding at the plate one out of every three times is considered a big success, Clark has easily surpassed that. She is the rare five-tool player who lacks any faults that have to be covered up or can be exploited by opponents.
“I’d say she’s a once-in-a-10-year type of athlete, especially for softball,” Bunosso said. “You can basically put her anywhere, but she’s got speed, power, hits for average, plays unbelievable defense at shortstop. She does it all. She makes the calls in the infield. She just knows the game really well. You don’t even have to coach her. She’s just that kind of an athlete that comes around every so often.”
Perhaps the biggest change for Clark this season has been in the role, along with Maddy Reyes and Caitlyn Romero, as captain. She has slid into a leadership position with the same ease as the more tangible parts of her game.
Asked if she took on the responsibility more by being vocal or leading by example, Clark said, “I’d say I’m a little bit of both. When I’m on the field, playing shortstop specifically, I always like to talk to my fielders, remind everyone how many outs there are, tell my outfielders where to throw the ball. I like being on a field that’s full of action and people talking. It keeps the game interesting. From that point I’m a more vocal leader on the field.”
Carried by the offense while missing their top four pitchers due to quarantine and injury, the Falcons are off to a 5-0 start. Clark’s fingerprints are all over the team.
“When she was a freshman she didn’t really talk and when she was a sophomore she became more open, communicating a lot more,” Bunosso said. “I’ve seen a huge difference this year. She’s like another coach on the field.”
As one of just three seniors on a team full of talented underclassmen, Clark said she has enjoyed being a player others looked up to.
“The main thing about our team this year is we have a lot of youth,” Clark said. “They’re going to be very important to our success this year. We have a lot of sophomores who never had a freshman season. Us three are really excited to lead the team.”
The Falcons felt they had the personnel last year to make a run at St. Joseph and Trumbull, the two teams that have recently dominated the league. Missing the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic was difficult to get over.
“We really feel like we missed out on an opportunity to have a really successful season last year,” Clark said. “We were all really close with those seniors so this year we all want to play for them. We’re really close with the underclassmen. We’ve built a strong family and it’s one unit this year.”
Clark, who has been recruited heavily, including by a number of Division I schools, has still not made a commitment for next year. For now she, along with Reyes and Romero, are more concerned about the present.
“We know what it takes to win having started since freshman season,” Clark said. “We know what it takes to get to Sacred Heart (site of the FCIAC semifinals and final). We have the experience and we also have the young talent to get us to where we want to be.”