Softball

Extra-Base Hits: Ludlowe Putting Pitching Depth To Test

Fairfield Ludlowe’s Julia Magliocco delivers a pitch last week in a win over New Canaan. (Mark Conrad)

Having too many players at a position can be as troublesome for coaches as not having enough.

Or so the adage goes.

Fairfield Ludlowe coach Lou Bunosso will kindly disagree. The Falcons are off to a 4-0 start behind Julia Magliocco, his No. 5 pitcher.

At the start of preseason Ludlowe lost sophomore Anna Gedacht due to a stress fracture in her back. Two days before the season started two freshmen, projected No. 1 starter Alex Lewey and Kira Fazio, after contact tracing were forced into quarantine.

The Falcons opened the season with an 11-4 win over Stamford behind Delaney Sullivan, their No. 4 pitcher. Two days later Sullivan was forced into quarantine after contact tracing.

Enter Magliocco, an outfielder who last pitched in a JV game in 2019.

“I’m feeling very confident with her,” Bunosso said.

Magliocco has pitched beyond expectations, buoyed by an offense that is among the best in the league. The Falcons have outscored opponents 52-0 in her three starts.

With Allie Clark, one of the league’s premier players, and Della Jackson behind her, the Falcons open games with a strong 1-2 punch. Caitlyn Romero is also off to a hot start.

“Our offense has been stellar,” Bunosso said. “Getting an early lead and then making sure our pitchers are comfortable. That’s our goal, to come out with the bats, make pitchers comfortable and we have a really good defense behind them. It’s been a combination of things. Throwing strikes, if they put the ball in play we’re making plays and the offense is pretty strong.”

As with many coaches this year working through the unknowns from the pandemic, Bunosso has been dealing with an obstacle course managing his personnel.

“We were floored when the two freshmen went down,” he said. “They went down on the same day within an hour of each other. We heard the rumors and then got the message from each player.”

Magliocco gets her biggest test Wednesday at home against Trumbull. The Eagles have only played once, a 12-0 loss to St. Joseph. The Eagles had been penciled in as the second best team in the preseason. We will find out if the margin of defeat was an aberration.

Soon, Bunosso is going to have four and perhaps five pitchers ready to go. How will be handle that situation?

“When we went into the beginning of the season, before Alex went out, she was leading the pack in my eyes,” Bunosso said. “It may be a little bit of a competition, it might be a little mixing and matching. We are looking forward to having the opportunity because we’ve never had so many pitchers that we could put out there and make us competitive.”

At which point having five pitchers may become a little less of a blessing.

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Taubenheim Offers Promise For Staples

Among all the great offensive performances last week — just look at the finalists for Female Player of the Week — there was one eye-opening pitching line that happened in defeat. Staples’ Tasha Taubenheim pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings against league favorite St. Joseph, striking out 12 and allowing three hits.

That would lead one to think the game ended in a low-scoring pitchers’ duel. But the Wreckers’ junior ace came on in relief after the Cadets scored seven runs in the first inning against Ally Curry. The final score remained 7-0.

Staples’ Tasha Taubenheim had an eye-opening outing last week against St. Joseph

Staples coach Bob Olah gambled that by throwing Curry, a solid No. 2 pitcher, for two innings it would give the St. Joseph batters one less opportunity to time the hard-throwing Taubenheim, but Curry, who allowed just two hits, walked five and struggled with her control.

Taubenheim is an example of potential stars unfamiliar to most because of last year’s lost season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Staples coach Bob Olah had enough confidence in Taubenheim as a freshman to throw her against Trumbull. The Eagles won the game, 8-0.

“That’s how much faith I had in her,” Olah said of using a 9th grader against one of the state’s top teams. “I’m of the mindset being an ex-ballplayer you have to sometimes challenge your players in a tough situation. I put her against Trumbull and she did really, really well. We made a lot of errors in the outfield. I think without those errors the game would have been 2-0.”

Olah was in the Mets’ farm system and played professional softball, traveling the country into his 40s.

The Wreckers were mentioned as a preseason sleeper. They have strong players like rightfielder Gabby Lantier and third baseman Ava Vincini. Jen Westphal is one of the league’s top catchers and gets to work with Taubenheim, who has given the team hope it will get to contend this season.

“Tasha has displayed a special talent that I don’t know if you can teach everybody,” Olah said. “Things are God-given. If you can get the right instruction and the right information to maximize your God-given talent… She’s a really strong mental person. Once she gets into the game she’s focused and she wants to win. With her changeup and her fastball and her accuracy of placement, she’s only going to get better.”

Top Of The Order

1. St. Joseph (3-0). With a decisive win over Trumbull, the Cadets have established themselves as the team to beat.

2. Fairfield Ludlowe (4-0). The Falcons have one of the best offenses. Pitching will likely decide how far they go.

3. Trumbull (0-1). The Eagles have had over a week to deal with their 12-0 loss to St. Joseph.

4. Stamford (3-1). Kim Saunders has done it all, with the bat and on the mound, for the Black Knights.

5. Staples (1-1). A tough call between the Wreckers and 3-0 Fairfield Warde. Giving the nod now to Staples based on the potential with Taubenheim on the mound.