May 4—SOMERS — Madison Hinkley didn't see the field much during her freshman season with the Somers High softball team in 2019.
But Hinkley, now a junior, has morphed herself into a key contributor for the Spartans as both the team's leadoff hitter and starting shortstop.
That transformation has been as much about her mental game as it has her physical game.
"I think I've made the most progress on the mental aspect," she said Monday. "I think I've gotten a lot better with staying out of my head and focusing on the next play rather than the plays before."
That mental toughness came in handy Monday. Though the Spartans were inconsistent offensively in a 9-2 loss to Granby in a battle for first place in the NCCC, Hinkley shined. She had two hits, including a home run, and drew a walk. No other Spartan reached base more than once.
"I think we had a lot of fight," Hinkley said. "I think going into this game, we knew that we just had to play our game and what'll happen will happen. Towards the end, we kind of stuck with that."
Hinkley's confident play in 2021 can be traced back to the end of her freshman campaign, which saw her serve primarily as a pinch runner and backup infielder.
Coach Melanie Zamorski brought Hinkley on to run with the Spartans down one in the top of the seventh of the 2019 Class S title game against Coginchaug. Hinkley ended up scoring the tying run, and the Spartans would go on to win 3-2 to capture their first state title.
"It was a great experience and it was a good boost of confidence to think that she wanted me to be running," Hinkley said.
Despite her sophomore season being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hinkley continued to develop her game. She took hitting and pitching lessons on her own, and played travel ball for CT Impact.
That hard work has paid off. Hinkley entered Monday's game with a .605 batting average and a .643 on-base percentage. She had 23 hits, including four doubles and a home run, eight RBIs, 18 runs scored and a .789 slugging percentage. She's also shined at short, a position that was previously occupied by three-time all-stater Katryna Dukehart, who now plays for Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.
"It was huge having her come in like this," Zamorski said.
Hinkley originally batted toward the bottom of the order. But her strong play in the first few games caused Zamorski to make the change. Despite her early success, Hinkley still plans on improving her game in the second half of the season.
"I wouldn't say a specific goal that I could measure," Hinkley said. "But just working on my swing and little technical things that I want to have cleaned up for the summer."
Both teams entered Monday unbeaten in conference play. The win gives Granby (11-0) sole possession of first place, and snaps an eight-game winning streak for Somers (9-2).
Hinkley got things started with a solo shot over the left field fence on the second pitch of the bottom of the first. But the Bears scored the next eight runs to seize the momentum. Bianca Green made it 8-2 when she drove-in pinch runner Grace Chagnon with a single in the sixth, but the Bears pushed the lead back to seven in the seventh.
Lex Nichols hit two home runs for Granby, a two-run blast in the third and a solo shot in the fifth. She finished with three hits. Teammate Iris Rooney also had three hits, including a double, two RBIs and a run scored.
Emily Reynolds took the loss. She allowed six earned runs in seven innings while walking two and striking out five. Abby Kidd earned the win, striking out 14 in seven innings.
Somers is at Canton Wednesday.
"We're just going to come out and practice tomorrow and we're just going to get ready like we would any other game," Zamorski said. "We're going to talk about mistakes that we made in the game today, try to work on some of the mental stuff and keep on going."
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