Orange Crush girls' softball team sparkles this season

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Killingly - posted Wed., Jun. 15, 2011
(L-r) Lauren Kirkconnell, Catherine Fawell, Cadence Kirkconnell, Brianna Fontaine and Julia Ryan, of the Orange Crush. Photos by D. Coffey.
(L-r) Lauren Kirkconnell, Catherine Fawell, Cadence Kirkconnell, Brianna Fontaine and Julia Ryan, of the Orange Crush. Photos by D. Coffey.

Dave Fontaine is closing out his first season as coach of the Orange Crush, Killingly’s number 2 softball team. While he has coached boys in the Little League before, this was his first year coaching girls, and he said it was eye-opening, as well as rewarding.

Most of the team had never played the sport before this year, the coach said. They didn’t know how to catch a ball, they couldn’t hit when they got up to bat, and they didn’t have a clue as to how to cover bases when they were in the field. Fontaine had to start from square one with the 7- to 11-year-old girls.

“They were a little rough around the edges at the beginning of the season,” he said. “There was a big learning curve for all of them.” It was the biggest difference for him going from coaching boys to coaching girls. But it wasn’t the only difference.

“They can be tougher than little boys,” Fontaine said, “but they have their moments.”

His wife, Polly, agreed. “Little girls can be more dramatic,” she said. “At the same time, they can be strong and not complain as much about certain things. They don’t complain about it being so hot or being in the sun all the time. In the spring, it was so cold, they were all shivering,” she said, “but they wouldn’t say anything until coach asked, ‘Do you want to go home?’”

Fontaine is pleased with how far his team has progressed in just one season. In the girls' season opener, they played poorly. But when they met the same team later in the season, the other coach complimented them. “He said we had improved 100 percent,” said Fontaine.

Polly talked about the moments of sheer joy when they watch a girl have a shining moment in the field or at bat. “It amazes him and the rest of us when that girl gets the ball in a play and goes right to where she’s supposed to go,” she said. “Or for that girl struggling to hit the ball, and she gets up to bat and gets a hit, and it’s not a little bopper, it’s a good hit, and she gets on base.”
The Orange Crush girls have brought the Fontaine family close this season. Dave’s son Garret is the assistant coach. Polly Fontaine keeps the scorebook. Brianna Fontaine plays on the team, where she switch-hits, much to the amazement of her parents.

Fontaine doesn’t record the score of the games, only the at-bats, who made hits and who struck out. It helps him figure out how to equalize the times at bat for his players. At the beginning of the season, he tried to figure out each player’s strengths and what positions might be good fits for them. But he moves his players around so they can understand the game better and what the positions call for. They practice as much as they can, but the spring was cold, and some weeks the heat was incredible, and he did not hold practice.

Because the league is short on umpires and there aren’t enough to go around for all the games scheduled, oftentimes fans will get called upon to fill in. Garret Fontaine has been called to ump as many games as he coaches. There is a benefit to that, according to his father.

“Coming down here and umping for minor league is a good way to do community service hours for high school kids,” Fontaine said. “Our son did that to graduate. He likes it. He may go on.”

The Fontaines would like to see more parental support at the games. “These are our kids,” Polly said. “This is the future of our town. It would be nice to have more volunteers to help out.”

 

Coach’s Corner:
Head Coach: Dave Fontaine
Assistant Coach: Garret Fontaine
First season with the team.

“It’s wonderful to see girls who never played before improve so much in one season. Four of the girls had played T-ball, but the others hadn’t played the game at all. They could hardly catch or hit, or even know how to cover the bases. I’ve seen 100 percent improvement in the team,” said Dave Fontaine.

 


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