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2014 High School Softball Preview

Published April 08. 2014 4:00AM
Dana Jensen/The Day
East Lyme's Erica Hill returns to pitch her senior season. She's one of nine players the Vikings have returning from last year's Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament championship team.

ECC Large

East Lyme

Coach: Judy Deeb (43rd season).

Key returnees: Sr. 1B/C Sarah Bond, Sr. C/OF Hannah Burke, Sr. 2B Shae Crosby, Sr. P Erica Hill, Sr. 3B Samantha Horner, Sr. CF Morgan Lloyd, Sr. OF Kirsten McGinty, Sr. P Meghan Welch, So. SS Kaylie Crosby.

Top newcomers: Jr. OF Megan Lanier, So. INF Hannah LeBeau, So. INF Carly Puckett, So. C/OF Haley Birch.

Outlook: East Lyme (21-3) shared the ECC Large Division title and won the league tournament a year ago, stringing together a 10-game winning streak late in the season during which Deeb, now with 560 victories, became the sport's all-time wins leader in the state of Connecticut. There's nothing stopping the Vikings from continuing their roll, either. They return nine players with varsity experience, including All-ECC picks Hill (12-3, 1.29 ERA) at pitcher and Lloyd (.644, 3 HR, 40 RBI) in the outfield. In addition, Welch (9-0, 1.28) split time with Hill, giving East Lyme a pair of reliable pitching options. The Vikings will miss graduated all-state shortstop Madison Horner, a four-year starter.

Fitch

Coach: Arielle Cooper (1st season).

Key returnees: Jr. SS Jackie Lewis, Jr. 3B/C Katherine Georgetti, Jr. 2B/P Haley Flax, Jr. 2B Lauren Szczesny, So. 3B Olivia Knotts, So. P/1B Caroline Taber, So. OF Nalissa Amar, So. OF Mackenzie Aldridge.

Top newcomers: So. OF Olivia Watts, Fr. P/1B Jayden Delaporta, Fr. C Taylor Wolfgang, Fr. 3B Rylee MacMillan, Fr. OF Cassie Woods, Fr. OF Taylor Kenyon, Fr. SS/2B Jonell Hobert.

Outlook: The Falcons, with the graduation of All-ECC honorees Alana Luzzio (P) and Holly Noe (C), don't have a senior on the roster, giving them 11 freshmen and sophomores. Many of the underclassmen, however, have played together before, including on last summer's Mystic-Groton Junior League team which won the New England title, and four of them got varsity experience last year. Taber was an All-ECC pick at second base in 2013 when Fitch went 16-8, also combining with Luzzio to pitch a no-hitter in the first round of the Class L state tournament. Cooper, an All-American at Eastern Connecticut State University last year and a member of the Falcons' 2009 state championship team, takes over on an interim basis for Kate Prpich, who is on maternity leave. Cooper has a variety of options at pitcher, including Taber and Delaporta, one of many talented freshmen.

Ledyard

Coach: Ray O'Donnell (12th season).

Key returnees: Sr. SS/OF Savannah Johnson, Sr. CF Fran Francischelli, Sr. 2B Hannah Lawrence, Jr. LF Sarah Bennett, Jr. OF Kalli Money, So. P Chloe Hespeler.

Top newcomers: Sr. C Rebecca Schmahl, Jr. C/3B Briana Bisson, Jr. P/1B Jessica Kuelling, Jr. C Nikki McComiskey, Jr. 2B/RF Haley Wilt.

Outlook: Losing three four-year starters, including the starting battery of Jessica Monday and Tyler Gernhard, gives the Colonels "big shoes to fill," according to O'Donnell. In addition, Ledyard (13-9) moves from the ECC Medium Division to the Large Division. O'Donnell likes his team's versatility, however, and hopes to continue the progression the Colonels have made the last two seasons.

NFA

Coach: Bryan Burdick (6th season).

Key returnees: Sr. C Emily Devito, Sr. 1B Melissa Castillo, Sr. SS Brianne Brennan, Jr. P Megan Weir, Jr. 3B Emily Arico, Jr. Util. Shaina Beatrice.

Top newcomers: Jr. 2B Sophia Formiglio, Fr. P/OF Beth Fleming.

Outlook: Devito, Castillo and Brennan are four-year starters, leading a group of solid returnees Burdick believes will blend well with the team's newcomers to help the Wildcats improve on last year's 10-11 record. Devito, an All-ECC selection, signed a letter of intent to play next season at Division II Long Island University Post.

ECC Medium

New London

Coach: Missy Parker (3rd season).

Key returnees: Sr. Util. Jessica Baskett, Sr. RF/P Emily Corbeil, Sr. IF Manuela Duran, Jr. OF Nikita Terry, Jr. Util. Liliana Figueroa, Jr. IF Joeanna Gomez, So. 1B/P Kate Ashbey, So. IF Riley Barnes, So. P/C Shaiann Rosado.

Top newcomers: So. J'Lise Potter, So. Kenya Capers.

Outlook: The Whalers (2-18) may return several players, but it is still a young team, according to Parker, which still needs to work hard to progress. New London graduated pitcher Samantha Overton.

Stonington

Coach: Ann-Marie Houle (11th season).

Key returnees: Sr. P/OF Theresa Kane, Sr. P/OF Brianna Nolan, Jr. C Christine McNeil, So. IF Rhianna Maynard, So. OF Mallory Kane, So. IF Jessica Connors.

Top newcomers: Sr. OF Kara Jones, Sr. C/OF Charlotte McSweeney, Jr. IF Meagan Dreher, Jr. IF Mariah Main, So. IF Brooke Arruda, So. OF Abbigail Blanchard, So. OF Karli Tavares, So. OF Reilly Walker, Fr. OF Cameron Dreher, Fr. IF Emma Miller.

Outlook: The defending ECC Medium Division champion, finishing 10-0 in the division last season (18-5 overall) Stonington is paired once again in the Medium with Waterford, a former division rival which relocated temporarily to the Large Division. The Bears lost five starters to graduation, including All-ECC selections Andrea Chiaradio (P/OF), Ally Curioso (SS) and Katie Headley (C) and Houle said it will be a challenge to replace their leadership. Kane, who signed a letter of intent to play next season at Division I Georgetown, and Nolan will split time pitching. "With a lot of new faces, we are looking for the underclassmen to adjust quickly and be productive," Houle said.

Waterford

Coach: Liz Sutman (13th season).

Key returnees: Sr. C Elaina Sullivan, Sr. 2B Hannah Swanson, Sr. LF Megan Elphick, Jr. SS Jodi Weiss, Jr. 1B Sarah Pacheco, Jr. P Tori VanCleave, So. CF Claire Hurley, So. 3B Sara Buscetto, So. P Kazi Walker.

Top newcomers: C/Util. Caroline Douton, So. 2B/OF Mackenzie Merriman, So. OF Ally Pezzolesi, So. OF Karena Bushey, So. OF Avery Kozma.

Outlook: The reigning Class M state champion, topping Granby Memorial 6-3 in the title game, Waterford finished 22-6 overall last year with a share of the ECC Large Division title. Now, the Lancers move to the Medium Division, creating an instant rivalry with defending champion Stonington. Waterford lost its only all-league picks, Katelyn Haff at second base and Talia Rickerson in center field, as well as The Day's 2013 All-Area Player of the Year in pitcher Megan Spellman. The players the Lancers do have returning, however, are talented, with Sullivan at her usual position behind the plate and Hurley, the MVP of the state championship game, moving from left field to center. Said Sutman: "Returning and new players have been conditioning in the offseason, preparing for their chance to break into the starting lineup."

ECC Small

Montville

Coach: Rob Alves (5th season).

Key returnees: Sr. Nichole Walmsley, Sr. Caitlin Perkins, Sr. Alyssa Mattison, Jr. Katrina Awad, Jr. Hannah Meyers, Jr. Stephanie Szot, Jr. Alyssa Nissen, Jr. Nicole Dutka, Jr. Emily Bigelow, Jr. Adrienne Foret, Jr. Brianna Cottrell, So. Katie Banta.

Top newcomers: Sr. Emily Irwin, Sr. Rebecca Leighton, Jr. Tayor LaVallie, So. Olivia Fargo, So. Samantha Rodgers, So. Alex Clemons.

Outlook: The Indians return everyone from last year's team which went 10-12 and advanced to the second round of the Class M state tournament, including Awad, an All-ECC pick in the infield. Alves said he's already seen improvement in his team, which is hoping to build off its successes of a year ago and compete for the Small Division title.

St. Bernard

Coach: Brittany Connors (2nd season).

Key returnees: Sr. SS Ali Patterson, Sr. 3B/P Amy Bouchard, Sr. CF Gretchen Greene, Sr. 1B Kiely Smith, Jr. C Shoshana Berkman.

Top newcomers: Fr. 3B/P Sophie Nelson, Fr. 1B/C Haley Zawilinski.

Outlook: St. Bernard (11-12) won a share of the ECC Small Division last year in Connors' first season and returns four seniors, including All-ECC picks Greene and Patterson, to help the Saints defend their title. Because of the team's experience, Connors hopes the team can "start strong and end strong." The Saints will miss all-state pitcher Mena Buscetto, who graduated.

Wheeler

Coach: Joe Cawley (4th season).

Key returnees: Jr. 1B Kylie Baker, So. C Raven Houck.

Top newcomers: Jr. P Jenn Paride, Fr. SS/P Sam Muller.

Outlook: The transfer of Paride from Stonington will help soften the blow from the graduation of all-state pitcher Summer Cipriani - now competing at Eastern Connecticut State University - who took with her more than 600 career strikeouts. Muller will also share time pitching for the Lions (10-10), according to Cawley. Houck, an All-ECC catcher, will spark the offense, the coach said, along with Paride and Baker, but, as always, Cawley says defense will be the key.

Others

Grasso Tech

Coach: John Blake (10th season).

Key returnees: Sr. C Amanda Overton, So. C/INF Amber Maher, So. INF/C Tabitha Ford, So. OF Shebony Gaston, So. OF Kedy Tirado, So. OF Jamilka Soriano.

Top newcomers: Fr. INF/P Sam Martinez, Fr. INF/C Ashley Cambisaca, Fr. INF Sophia Green.

Outlook: A young team, with many freshmen and sophomores, Blake is hoping to see improvement with game experience, in hopes of achieving a state tournament berth. The Eagles (7-13) compete in the East Division of the Constitution State Conference, where Overton was a second team all-star last season.

Norwich Tech

Coach: John Saporita (8th year).

Key returnees: Sr. 3B Kianna Dailey, Sr. OF Cerena Dean-Rathbun, Jr. Util. Kerrie Bellerose, Jr. P Jordyn Clark, So. 1B Saige Laquitara.

Top newcomers: Jr. Util. Kassie Missios, Jr. OF Quintessa Matthews, Jr. OF Destiny Miner, So. OF Samantha Kelly, Fr. C Daria Stifel, Fr. SS Abbey Pater, Fr. OF Casey Gervais, Fr. P/Util. Madison Bodley.

Outlook: The bad news is the Warriors (2-16) return just four starters from last year, having graduated their only CSC East first team all-star in shortstop Stacey Bowen. Here's Saporita with the good news: "It's still early to tell, but, I'm going out on a limb here, this is one of the most talented groups of underclassmen that we have had here in a long time." Saporita said if Norwich Tech can throw strikes and limit its number of errors, the team will make "large strides."

Old Lyme

Coach: Paul Gleason (3rd year).

Key returnees: Sr. 3B Kaylin Riggs, Sr. C Kristina Cain, Jr. RF Megan Cole, So. SS Kyra Teixeira, So. P Bella Cohen.

Top newcomers: Sr. 1B Ali Scott, So. 2B Molly Biega, So. LF/P Alexis Taylor.

Outlook: Gleason said he's confident the core of returning players combined with new talent will "help build back the program in Old Lyme," adding that he's very excited for the Wildcats' first game. Old Lyme (1-18) competes in the Shoreline Conference.

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