Windsor’s Moody balancing fun, business with young softball squad

By BENJAMIN ROSENBERG

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 04-12-2023 11:43 PM

WINDSOR — Shortly after learning that Wendy Moody would be the varsity head coach for Windsor High softball this spring, Sydney Perry walked into her office with a fun suggestion.

“I was like, ‘Wendy, I think we should have walk-up songs,’ ” Perry said. “I personally really enjoy music, and I already had mine all picked out. She was like, ‘I got you, and I will support you in this.’ So we figured it all out together, and now we have them.”

At the Yellowjackets’ opening game Tuesday against Burr & Burton, “Bad Girls” by M.I.A. blared over the speaker system before each of the junior infielder’s four at-bats. Windsor fell to the Bulldogs, 17-9, but energy remained high throughout in the home dugout, particularly during a four-run fifth-inning rally that saved the Yellowjackets from a run-rule defeat.

Softball matters at Windsor — all sports do at a school that has won 17 state titles in team sports since 2016 — but many of the Yellowjackets treat it as more of a “fun” sport in contrast to the likes of basketball and field hockey, where Windsor has a recent history of championships and expectations are higher.

Of the 15 players on the Yellowjackets’ roster, four are coming off a title on the basketball court this winter, Windsor’s second straight. Eight of them played varsity field hockey this past fall on a team that lost in the VPA Division III semifinals but had won three consecutive championships before that. Perry and junior Amber Simonds were on both squads.

The softball program, meanwhile, has never won a state title and last played for one in 2012.

“Softball is not something they intend to necessarily play in college,” Moody said. “This is the sport they do just to stay active, be on a team with their peers and have a good time with it. Sure, they’re natural competitors, because they’re state championship players who have won in other sports, but it’s an opportunity for them to enjoy the sport and enjoy their peers as they finish up the school year.”

Moody understands that dynamic as well as anyone.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Hartford parts with state champion girls hockey coach
Plan for 240 apartments in White River Junction completes planning and zoning review
Search for missing Dartmouth graduate student ends tragically
Missing Dartmouth student’s body found in Connecticut River
Strafford man out of prison after pleading guilty to burning down cabin
Royalton closes bridge spanning Broad Brook

The school’s administrative assistant and previously a long-term substitute teacher, Moody is in her fourth year coaching in the softball program and was the junior varsity head coach last season. She is also an assistant for the girls soccer team and previously assisted with the junior high boys basketball program.

A Lebanon High graduate who played softball for the Raiders under longtime coach Deb Beach, Moody has been something of a constant for a Windsor program that has undergone its share of change in recent years.

Kelsey (Mason) Lemieux was hired as head coach prior to last season, but she gave birth to her first child in February, so she and Moody talked with each other and athletic director Jim Taft about allowing Moody to move up to the varsity. Lemieux still stops by practice once a week to work with the pitchers on their mechanics.

“It helps them in the sense that they know my style and they know what’s expected of them,” Moody said. “We have a lot of new players, young talent, so we get to write the script. They don’t have any preconceived notions of what it should be like.”

Windsor is a young team this year, with five freshmen and four sophomores to go along with three seniors and three juniors. All five of those first-years were in the starting lineup Tuesday, and at key positions, too — Molly Burke in the pitcher’s circle, Mackenzie Kleefisch behind the plate, Cassie Clark at shortstop and Hannah Tenney at second base.

Moody has been emphasizing situational awareness in practice but acknowledged that nothing other than game experience can truly prepare her newcomers for the speed of varsity softball.

“She cares a lot, wants you to work hard,” Perry said. “She understands that you’re going to make physical errors, but she wants to try to minimize those mental errors, so we do mental reps at practice. She knows how we prefer to be coached (and) how we like to be talked to if we make a mistake.”

The Yellowjackets may be in for a difficult year on the field — the Burr & Burton team that defeated them on Tuesday was just 1-14 last year and Windsor has plenty of tough tests ahead, including two matchups each with Hartford, Springfield and Fair Haven and single games against larger schools like Brattleboro, Mount Anthony and Rutland.

The pitching is a work in progress following the graduation of Peyton Richardson, who now plays field hockey at Castleton University. Burke threw a complete game Tuesday and struck out nine batters, but also walked 10 and allowed 12 hits. Clark and sophomore Piper Vivian are also options in the circle.

“They know I’m a competitive coach at heart, so I’m always going to expect them to compete and want to do well, but we’re all doing this in our spare time, so we have to have fun with it,” Moody said. “I’m all open to the music and anything that gets the camaraderie up and the excitement for the game. They don’t have to be so cutthroat and worried about every single second of whatever’s happening.”

Benjamin Rosenberg can be reached at brosenberg@vnews.com or 603-727-3302.

]]>