Softball season ready to start
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Last softball season saw three local teams earn playoff appearances and the other came within one win of qualifying.
And while the rosters have changed, the goals of getting to the playoffs and making a deep run remain possible.
Very few moments of the preseason have been spent outside with snow still blanketing portions of the region. With the start of the season in question for many teams around the state, it won’t be long before the pop of the glove and the ping of aluminum bats can be heard all around the area.
The Warriors are coming off a perfect season and the Division IV championship last June.
But the loss of pitcher Sam Broderick, who was also the team’s best hitter and the Division IV Player of the Year, along with catcher Katie Day, will make things hard for WLC to repeat.
“That was the strongest part of our team,” said coach Dennis Claire.
This year, senior Deanna Davidson and freshman Zandra Morse will take over the pitching duties, but neither has the kind of experience that Claire is used to.
“I don’t know how the pitching is going to work yet,” said Claire. “Our big issue, as everybody knows, is we lost our pitcher and that’s a big key.”
Freshman Ally Schwab slides into the catcher position and so far has shown to be more than capable of handling the duties.
And from there, most of the positions are filled with the same players from last year. Senior Andrea Heck returns to first base and the leadoff position in the lineup. Junior Sami Bosquet will patrol third and senior Casey Jenkerson will play second when she returns from an ankle injury and freshman Sarah Holka is scheduled to take over at shortstop when Davidson is pitching.
The outfield is the same with junior Kim Edmunds in left, sophomore Jenna Bragdon in center and junior Sophie LeVert in right.
The Warriors will need to score runs this year to make up for the inexperience at the pitcher position, but Claire believes this is still a good team that will have no problem making the postseason.
“We’ve got our work cut for us,” said Claire. “It’s going to be an interesting season. I’m anxious to see us out on the field.”
WLC travels to Hinsdale on April 8.
The Cougars were one strike away from advancing to the Division II championship game, only to have a late Kennett rally end their season.
So the plan for this year is to not only make it back to the semifinals, but win the Final Four contest and play in the state title game.
“I expect to be back there,” said coach Jim Coppo. “The experience in itself was huge. It will play a big part in our development this year.”
And with only having to replace two players from last year, third baseman/pitcher Shauna Whittemore and second baseman Amanda Davie, the Cougars have a lot of experience coming back.
Junior Courtney Fisher will handle much of the pitching duties, like she did last year, while sophomore Brittany Doyle and freshman Sam Hanlon could also see some time.
Senior catcher Marena Brock returns to not only handle the pitching staff, but will be a potent part of the versatile ConVal lineup. Seniors Lauren Mackey, shortstop, and Ana Hautanen, first base, return to the infield, while Katie Walker and Maxine Dunn will patrol the corner outfield positions.
Sophomore JoEllen Racicot will make the move from center to the infield, helping to fill the second and third base spots. Junior Bryanna Lindsay will likely play the other position and freshman Sasha Brock could play the outfield.
“This team is loaded with great players,” said Coppo.
This team is built to contend and should be better than the 10th seed they earned last year. It will all come down to how this team improves between the April 8 opener at Milford and the start of the playoffs.
“We just have to go out and get the job done,” said Coppo.
The Orioles were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs last year, but felt they were better than that.
So this season, with most of the team returning, the goal is to take the next step.
“We have the team to do it,” said coach Tom Lambert.
The return of senior pitcher Kelsey Smith should put Conant among the list of contenders in Division III. Smith missed all of last season with a torn ACL, but is healthy and ready to help this team win.
“Taking last year off, seeing it from a different perspective, helped her a lot,” said Lambert. “But any rust she had is gone now.”
Sophomore Ivy Chalke, who pitched last year, will still see time on the mound, but will mainly play first base.
And the rest of the infield is set from last year. Senior Teresa DiTommaso enters her fourth year as the starting third baseman, senior Hannah Buckjune returns to second base and sophomore Katie Chadbourne will be Conant’s starting shortstop.
Junior Heather Bilodeau resumes the catching duties and the outfield will consist of junior Jenna Sirois, sophomore Vanessa Lemire and senior Reenie Kim, who returns to the team after playing as a freshman.
The Orioles are ready to make a deep run in the playoffs and it will all come down to what they do at the plate.
“We can play defense and pitch. It’s all about the hitting,” said Lambert.
Conant hosts Fall Mountain on April 8.
A loss in last year’s regular season finale eliminated the Vikings from playoff contention.
But with most of the team back, Mascenic coach Frank Cadwell anticipates making a serious run at the postseason.
“I would hope we make the playoffs this year,” said Cadwell.
The Vikings have a lot of players who can fill multiple positions and Cadwell will experiment early on to find the right mix.
“It’s a good problem and that’s what I told the kids,” said Cadwell.
Senior shortstop Jocelyn Ojala will miss the entire season with a torn ACL, but is still a captain.
“She’s not going to play, but she brings a lot to the team by just being there.
Senior Casey Thoel will play third, shortstop, catcher and pitch. Senior Katelynn Kelleher will see most of her time on the mound, but will also play third when Thoel or junior Cheyanne Sauvola pitch. Sauvola will play mostly first, while junior Sarah Sharp and sophomore Emily Rines can both play second or short.
Junior Heather Paradise will handle much of the catching duties with Mascenic’s three pitchers.
Seniors Brianna Pillsbury and Erin Scollans, along with sophomore Amber Salo, return to the outfield.
Cadwell expects the pitching and defense to be solid and so far the bats have been a welcomed sight.
“They’re hitting right now like they were at the end of last season,” said Cadwell.
Mascenic hosts Hinsdale on April 10.