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East Haven’s Riley Norwood, a senior at Cheshire Academy, recently signed on the line to continue her softball career at Mount Saint Mary College in New York. (Photo courtesy of PJ Norwood )
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East Haven resident Riley Norwood remembers driving past Cheshire Academy every day while attending the St. Bridget Catholic School. Norwood dreamed about potentially playing sports at Cheshire Academy one day. When she found out that she had been accepted, Norwood stood in her living room with the acceptance letter in her hand, beaming with excitement.
After spending the past four years at Cheshire Academy, Norwood got to experience that same level of excitement one more time. On May 12, Norwood, a senior, signed her National Letter of Intent to play softball at Mount Saint Mary College, a Division III school in Newburgh, New York.
“Knowing that I’m going to be playing college softball is a super-rewarding feeling. It’s something I’ve been working towards since 5th grade,” said Norwood. “It’s a huge relief that all the hard work has finally paid off.”
Norwood and her parents toured about 30 different schools around New England as she contemplated where she wanted to go to college. Mount Saint Mary was the first school that Norwood visited, and she instantly felt right at home.
“I loved it from that day. Every school I went to, I was comparing it to Mount Saint Mary,” Norwood said. “When I stepped on campus, I got that feeling of, ‘This is where I’m supposed to be,’ just like the feeling I got when I stepped on the Cheshire Academy campus for the first time. We circled back to Mount Saint Mary’s and, when I got there, I knew it was exactly where I needed to be.”
Norwood, who primarily plays third base, grew up a New York Yankees’ fan. She learned a lot about baseball while watching the Yankees play and then translated that knowledge to the softball field.
Norwood always idolized catcher Jorge Posada, who wore No. 20 for the Yankees. Norwood liked how Posada would joke around with his teammates in the dugout, but was also an intense leader on the diamond. Throughout her softball career, Norwood has always worn No. 20 in honor of Posada.
Norwood started off by playing tee-ball at The Pit when she was three before transitioning to pitch softball at age five. Norwood then attended St. Mary’s School, which is now the East Shoreline Catholic Academy, in Branford, then transferred to St. Bridget Catholic School in Cheshire in 4th grade.
Norwood began playing travel softball with the Cheshire Wildcats that same year. She said that competing for the team proved a crucial part of her development as a softball player, stating, “everything I know started with the Wildcats.”
Norwood added her parents have been one of the driving forces behind her success. Norwood’s mother Trish was her softball coach during middle school. While working as a nurse in the emergency room at nurse at MidState Medical Center in Meriden, Trish started taking the night shift, so she could watch her daughter play.
“As she got more serious about softball, I felt like I needed to be there for her. When she looks in the stands, she sees me. When she has a bad game, she knows I’m there,” Trish said. “As a mom, that’s my real joy—to see her be happy and do something that loves. I couldn’t miss any games. I told myself, ‘What if this is the game she hits a home run?’ If I’m not there, I couldn’t see it. I work nights strictly, so I could go to all of her softball games. I love watching her play.”
Norwood typically played third base for Cheshire Academy, but said that she is capable of playing any position on the diamond. As a sophomore, Norwood posted a team-leading batting average of .480 to go with 19 RBI for the Cats. In her junior year, Norwood was named one of the team’s captain. During her three seasons with Cheshire Academy, Norwood helped the Cats win the Western New England Prep School Girls Softball Association Class B championship every year.
“Cheshire Academy means everything to me. With the community and the family, it goes far beyond just a school,” said Norwood. “Because it’s a boarding school, I could be there from 10 o’clock in the morning to 8 o’clock at night, and many times I was. I would eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner with my team and always be there after practice. My softball skills have grown tremendously since I’ve been at Cheshire Academy.”
Norwood will be graduating from Cheshire Academy with both her high school diploma, as well as a full International Baccalaureate (IB) degree. Norwood said the IB program is the most rigorous program at Cheshire Academy. Norwood wanted to challenge herself and prove she could obtain such a degree, while also excelling in softball.
Norwood has been a fixture on the softball field ever since she started playing the sport. After honing her craft at various levels, she went on to enjoy a decorated career at Cheshire Academy. As she takes the next step toward Mount Saint Mary College, Norwood feels grateful for the opportunities that she’s had and feels eager to get back on the field.
“Being a softball player is a part of my identity. After getting my senior year taken away, I’ve really realized what softball means to me,” Norwood said. “Coronavirus has made me realize how much I love the game and how much I miss it. But softball is a part of me, and I couldn’t imagine life without it.”
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