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Softball: the surest sign of spring

2014 SOFTBALL PREVIEW

  • The ConVal softball team defeated Coe-Brown 5-3 to win the Division II championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Coe-Brown 5-3 to win the Division II championship on Saturday, June 8, 2013. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Goffstown 6-0 in the home opener on Monday, April 15, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Wilton-Lyndeborough softball team defeated Mascenic 21-9 on Monday, May 13, 2013<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Wilton-Lyndeborough softball team defeated Mascenic 21-9 on Monday, May 13, 2013<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant softball team defeated Bishop Brady 13-2 in the Division III Prelims on Friday, May 31, 2013.<br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

The fields are drying out, the tarps are coming off and it’s time for another softball season to start. After a 2013 season that saw ConVal capture its first state championship, hopes are high for another great season, some solid postseason runs — and perhaps another title for one of the four schools in our coverage area. Here’s a look at the names to know for the upcoming year on the diamond.

ConVal

Last season: 20-3 (Won DII state title)

Returning seniors: Courtney Fisher, Bryanna Lindsay, Emmasae Hallen

Head coach: Jim Coppo

First game: April 14 vs. Milford

The Cougars found themselves atop the softball world last season, claiming the first state championship in program history. Last season’s run was a memorable one. Now it’s time for the Cougars to get back to work.

“Although the faces are different, expectations are the same,” said coach Jim Coppo. Realizing last year’s team was a special one, the Cougars prepared to battle every day with the championship goal in mind. “We didn’t groom kids for this season because we were busy living in the moment,” said Coppo.

The journey continues for the returning veterans on the team — two of whom will keep their positions from last season. Courtney Fisher will remain starting pitcher and sophomore Sasha Brock will return to center field.

The biggest void is the one left by former catcher Marena Brock, who built a strong rapport with Fisher. Junior JoEllen Racicot, with her rocket of an arm, will put on the catcher’s gear this season after playing third base last year. Senior Bryanna Lindsay will bring her infield experience with her as she transitions from second base to shortstop. Fellow senior Emmasae Hallen will play third base after primarily being a designated hitter last season. Sophomore Kassidy Green, who separated her shoulder and was injured last season, will play first base this year.

Sophomores Sarah Dugas and Jasmine Long will compete with freshman Taylor Guay for spots in the outfield rotation, while sophomores Riley McCartney and Maryssa Williams will add depth. Guay, the lone freshman on the team, is a lefty who played catcher last season for SMS.

“She’s legit as a freshman — probable left fielder,” said Coppo.

Junior Brittany Doyle will see time at first base as well as on the mound if need be. Sophomore Sam Hanlan will provide another backup arm for the Cougars.

As the defending champs, ConVal will get tested by every team they face.

“We know we have a bullseye on our back. Every day will be a battle, but our journey continues,” said Coppo.

Mascenic

Last season: 6-13 (lost to Bishop Brady in opening round of DIII playoffs)

Returning seniors: Cheyanne Sauvola, Sarah Sharp

Head coach: Emily Gannon (first season)

First game: April 16 vs. Campbell

First-year coach Emily Gannon will take the varsity helm this season after coaching JV last spring. She brings sophomore left fielder Michelle Paradis with her from the JV ranks.

Leadership will be paramount on this year’s team with seven freshman on the varsity roster. There are only three upperclassmen on the roster — seniors Cheyanne Sauvola and Sarah Sharp and junior Amber Salo.

“The freshman are not afraid to step up and lead by example themselves,” said Gannon.

The feeder program for Mascenic, Boynton Middle School, made it to the state championship last season, proving that the freshman do not lack experience.

“All of the freshman want to work hard and try to improve daily. I look forward to seeing their progression,” said Gannon.

Sauvola is the club’s most experienced pitcher and will also see time at first base. Sharp will return to shortstop, and Salo will once again be at third.

Sophomore Casey Wayrynen, who was a great addition last year as a freshman, will catch, and freshman Stephanie Somero will see time as a rotational player at first base while freshman Meaghan Brand will play second.

The remaining freshmen will form the outfield and Autumn Firmin will provide a much needed pitching arm.

“Starting pitching is the biggest question. It will make or break our season,” Gannon said. “We have to throw strikes.”

Sauvola is the most experienced in the circle, but she has only seen limited varsity action. Firmin and Wayrynen have never pitched at the varsity level; they will need to step up to solidify the position.

Gannon, who played college softball at Carleton College, has her sights set on the long-term future of the program.

“Our top goal is to play hard and leave it all out on the field,” Gannon said. “I want to see progression from game to game. This group will set the tone for the next few years. I want to get Mascenic back to its winning ways.”

Conant

Last season: 15-3 (lost to Farmingon in DIII quarterfinals)

Returning seniors: Heather Bilodeau, Hannah Buckjune, Jenna Sirois

Head coach: Tom Lambert

First game: April 14 vs. Fall Mountain

The Orioles return eight players from last year’s squad. Coach Tom Lambert is heading into his ninth season at the helm.

“We need to win a postseason game. We were a top five team last year, but we need to show more consistency come playoff time,” said Lambert. “My goal is to compete in the playoffs.”

Conant will depend on junior Ivy Chalke, who played mostly first base last season, to do the pitching. Chalke has done her share of work on the mound — including throwing a combined no-hitter along with Kelsey Smith — but this will be her first taste of everyday pitching.

Freshman Megan Harvey will start at catcher, junior Vanessa Lemire will play center field and junior Katie Chadbourne will play shortstop.

Senior Jenna Sirois will return to left field, while senior Hannah Buckjune will once again play second base.

Senior Heather Bilodeau, normally the starting catcher, begins the season with a broken toe after taking a ball off her foot during practice. She will miss a month, a frustrating turn of events for the senior, who broke her foot at the end of the field hockey season and missed a month in the fall as well.

Right field and first base are holes that need to be filled. The competition for starting third baseman is between sophomores Devon Blood and Sierra Landry.

The four freshmen that coach Lambert brought on board following tryouts will be asked to step up and fill in holes where necessary.

“We have a lot of athletes,” Lambert said. “These girls can play anywhere. All of the freshmen are talented and will play wherever the team needs them.”

WLC

Last season: 16-4 (lost in title game to Woodsville)

Returning seniors: Sami Bosquet, Kim Edmunds, Sophie LeVert

Head coach: Denny Claire

First game: April 14 vs. Epping

Denny Claire found himself in the same situation at the beginning of last season. Tasked with replacing two terrific, All-State caliber players, he made the pieces fit and turned what could have been a building year into another championship run — and a third straight Coach of the Year nod, to boot.

This year, the Warriors will need to replace the bats of pitcher Deanna Davidson, who had a team-leading 39 RBI last season, and speedster Andrea Heck — “probably the best leadoff hitter in the division,” Claire said — who led the Warriors with 46 runs scored and racked up a scorching .597 average. And even with the season looming just around the corner, there are still plenty of questions in the Warriors’ lineup.

Senior Sami Bosquet is back to hold down the hot corner, and seniors Kim Edmunds and Sophie LeVert will bookend the outfield spots. Junior Jenna Bragdon is in center, and sophomore Ally Schwab (one of the most improved players on the roster, according to Claire) returns to the catcher position. The middle infield will likely be made up of some combination of sophomore Tesa Simpson and junior Lorrie Blais.

“They all had good seasons last year, not spectacular,” Claire said of his returning seniors and starters. “They’re all decent players and they all have to step up for us to be successful — and the younger players too — I think everybody’s got to improve this year. They’re all going to have to step up this year, not just the seniors.”

The battle for first base is wide open; that and the rest of the fielding positions will come down to Zandra Morris, Julie Joyal, Kassie Cavaretta, Lily Foisie and Olivia McGettigan. The pitching position will be a platoon of relative newcomers; sophomore Sarah Holka has thrown a few relief innings, but this season will be her first foray onto the mound as a starter. Claire will also call upon southpaw 7th-grader Lexi Balam to eat some innings. As with most teams, the Warriors will go as their pitching goes, so WLC will be leaning on those young pitchers to work hard and give them some good innings.

“We have a lot of question marks and our pitching is very inexperienced,” Claire said. “I don’t know how we’re going to start off, but we’re going to get better. Fundamentally, I think we’re going to be OK.”

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