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    Friday, March 01, 2024

    H.S. softball / 2016 preview capsules

    Fitch's Caroline Taber has pitched the Falcons to two straight state championship games and is the reigning Connecticut Gatorade Softball Player of the Year. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    ECC Large Division

    East Lyme

    Coach: Judy Deeb (45th year)

    Key returnees: Sr. P Mikaela LoPriore, Sr. C-OF Haley Birch, Sr. 1B Hannah LeBeau, Sr. 2B Alexis Bell, Sr. SS Kaylee Crosby, Sr. 3B Alex Marsh, Jr. OF Sage Dubreuil, So. OF Nicole Bowen, So. C-OF Alexandra Chambers.

    Top newcomers: So. P Harley McGinty, Fr. P Isabel Siciliano, Fr. UT Caitlin Sievers, Fr. UT Mya Robinson.

    Outlook: The Vikings went 15-8 a year ago, reaching the Class L second round, and return their two top players, Crosby and LoPriore. Both were ECC Large Division all-stars and Crosby was an all-state choice. East Lyme has experience at almost every position, too, which makes the Vikings a threat to challenge for division honors as well as making some noise in the postseason.

    Fitch

    Coach: Arielle Cooper (1st year)

    Key returnees: Sr. P-1B Caroline Taber, Jr. C Taylor Wolfgang, Jr. P-1B Jayden Delaporta, Jr. OF Cassie Woods, Sr. OF Nalissa Amar, Jr. 3B Rylee MacMillan, Jr. 2B-SS Jonell Hobert, Jr. OF Susanna Mewha.

    Top newcomers: Jr. Nicole Vignato, Sr. Mackenzie Aldridge, Fr. Casey Flax, Fr. Allison Georgetti, Fr. Olivia Travers, Fr. Angelina Doak, Fr. Olivia Carney.

    Outlook: Cooper, a Fitch graduate, returns to a program she led to the 2014 Class L state title while serving as the interim coach and takes over a team that fell just short in 2015, losing the state final to East Haven (4-2), the Falcons' only loss after winning their first 25 games. Taber, the Gatorade Connecticut Player of the Year in 2015 and The Day's two-time All-Area Player of the Year, returns for her final season before heading off to pitch for Princeton in the fall, although Cooper plans to use Delaporta in the circle, too. Despite the loss of team leader Jackie Lewis, Fitch has talent and experience at virtually every position and will be a threat to win ECC and state championships again.

    Ledyard

    Coach: Brittany Robinson (2nd year)

    Key returnees: Sr. P Chloe Hespeler, Sr. OF Olivia Satti, So. 2B Madison Sanborn, Sr. OF Hannah Terrapin, Jr. Larissa Topalis, Sr. Jessica Hazler, Sr. Dani Tynan.

    Top newcomers: Jr. Corrynne Medina, Jr. Riley Pratt, Jr. Isabelle Wells, So. Bella Langlois, So. Elsyana Morales, So. Meghann Coers, Jr. Corinne Diaz.

    Outlook: Robinson, the former Brittany Connors, returns only three starters, but Hespeler should be stronger after gaining experience against some strong competition a year ago and Satti was an honorable mention ECC all-star. The Colonels finished 10-11 and reached the Class L state tournament, so Robinson expects this team to be even better in 2016. "I always have high expectations and I think the girls are starting to really believe in themselves and how great they can be," Robinson said.

    Norwich Free Academy

    Coach: Bryan Burdick (8th year)

    Key returnees: Sr. 1B-C Alexa DeVito, Jr. P-OF Beth Fleming, Jr. UT Brittany Clark, Jr. 3B Kayla Tosses, So. SS-C Shea Gendron.

    Top newcomers: Fr. IF Sara Cote, Fr. P Bailey Comeau, Fr. OF-IF Hailee Schrader.

    Outlook: The Wildcats have graduated 13 players the past two seasons, including seven from a team that finished 18-6 a year ago and reached the Class LL quarterfinals, but Burdick has experience where it counts: DeVito behind the plate (along with Gendron) and Fleming on the mound. NFA also figures to get plenty of offensive production from Clark and Gendron, while Tosses provides a strong defensive presence at third and Burdick expects to get key contributions from some talented newcomers.

    ECC Medium Division

    Montville

    Coach: Rob Alves (7th year)

    Key returnees: Sr. C Katie Banta, Sr. 1B Alex Clemons, Sr. 3B Olivia Fargo, Sr. P-OF Lexi Kobyluck, Sr. 2B Sam Rogers, So. SS Amanda Perkins, So. P-OF Jazlin Fitch.

    Top newcomers: Jr. Ria Alvaran, Jr. Tiffany Evans, Jr. Kyndra Dietrich, Jr. Sarah Bigabal, So. Emmiley Genua, Fr. Abby Diamantini, Fr. Kaitlin Price.

    Outlook: The Indians moved from the Small to Medium Division this spring, but must replace five four-year starters from a team that finished 12-9, including four ECC Small Division all-stars. But Montville does return five starters, including its entire infield of Clemons, Rogers, Perkins and Fargo, so Alves believes the Indians can build upon the success of last season and reach the postseason again.

    New London

    Coach: Missy Parker (5th year)

    Key returnees: Sr. C Riley Barnes, Sr. CF Kenya Capers, Sr. 1B Joceyln Cooper, Sr. OF Tiffany McPherson, Sr. UT J'Lise Potter, Sr. P Shaiann Rosado, So. IF Erin Heap.

    Top newcomers: Fr. IF Bria Fielding, Fr. P Jovanna Potter, Fr. OF Jazmine Silva, Fr. OF-P Jordan Brown.

    Outlook: The Whalers, who were winless last season, welcome back Rosado, who missed the 2015 season with a knee injury. That should improve their chances alone, but New London has plenty of senior experience to bolster its chances of being more competitive this season and Parker welcomes a solid freshman class that will provide with a nice mix of youth and experience.

    Stonington

    Coach: Ann-Marie Houle (13th year)

    Key returnees: Sr. SS Rhianna Maynard, Sr. CF Mallory Kane, Sr. RF Jessica Connor, Sr. 3B Brooke Arruda, Sr. LF Abbigail Blanchard, Jr. 1B Cameron Dreher, Jr. 2B Emma Miller, So. P Trinity Lennon, So. OF Lainnie Connor, So. IF Erin Craig, So. IF Abby Flakus.

    Top newcomers: Sr. IF Karissa Coher, Sr. P Caitlyn Schramm, Fr. P Katie Sanford, So. IF Emma Diamanti, Fr. OF Colette Dreher, Fr. OF Miranda Arruda.

    Outlook: The Bears return one of the most talented teams in the ECC this season, returning all but one starter from a team that went 18-7 in 2015, reaching the ECC tournament final and the second round of the Class M tournament where they lost to eventual state champion Oxford. Houle loves her senior leadership — Maynard, Kane and Blanchard were all ECC all-stars a year ago — while Lennon stepped in as a freshman and quickly established herself as one of the ECC's top pitchers. A number of players also enjoyed success on the international stage, too, participating in the Junior League World Series last summer in Washington.

    Waterford

    Coach: Andy Walker (1st year)

    Key returnees: Sr. SS Sara Buscetto, Sr. CF Claire Hurley, Sr. 2B Shea Spellman, Sr. P Kazi Walker, Sr. OF Karena Bushey, Sr. OF Avery Kozma, Sr. UT Mackenzie Merriman, Sr. UT Ally Pezzolesi, Sr. OF Alyssa Annibalini.

    Top newcomers: Sr. OF Jill Sykora, Jr. C Emily Borysewicz, Jr. UT Bailey Bracket, Jr. UT Brittany Sylvia.

    Outlook: Walker replaces his sister, Liz Sutman, who kept the Lancers at an elite level during her entire tenure. He inherits an experienced group featuring nine seniors, including ECC all-stars Buscetto, Hurley, Spellman and Kazi Walker, from a team that finished 15-9 a year ago and made it to the second round of the Class M tournament. Many of these athletes have won ECC and state titles in another sports, so Andy Walker is optimistic Waterford will battle Stonington for divisional honors and also make a deep run in both postseason tournaments.

    ECC Small Division

    St. Bernard

    Coach: Nicole Nelson (2nd year)

    Key returnees: Jr. P Sophie Nelson, So. OF-C Briana Beverly, OF Trinity Rashan.

    Top newcomers: Fr. IF Emily Nelson, Fr. IF Meghan Bergeron, Fr. IF Shania Riviere, Fr. IF Sarah Conroy.

    Outlook: The Saints are in a bit of rebuilding mode after graduating four key seniors from last year's 8-12 team. St. Bernard does return Sophie Nelson, a Small Division all-star as a sophomore, and Beverly, an honorable mention pick. Coach Nelson is excited about one of the program's largest freshman classes in years and will rely on some of these new players to serve in key roles this season and develop as the season progresses.

    Wheeler

    Coach: Joe Cawley (6th season)

    Key returnees: Sr. SS Raven Houck, So. C Lena Curland, Jr. P Sam Muller, So. P Kendra Perez.

    Top newcomers: Fr. 3B-OF Savannah Galluci, Fr. OF Julia Ahern.

    Outlook: The Lions won their second straight ECC Small Division crown, but were upset in the first round of the Class S tournament by Old Saybrook (1-0), finishing 18-4 overall. They must replace all-state pitcher Jenn Paride, but return Penn-bound shortstop Raven Houck, a three-time ECC all-star and two-time all-state pick who moves to short this season, and Curland, an ECC all-star as a freshman. Cawley said Muller and Perez will sharing the pitching duties, and believes Wheeler will have an opportunity to defend its division title by playing solid defense.

    Others

    Grasso Tech

    Coach: John Blake (12th year)

    Key returnees: Sr. C Amber Maher, Sr. 1B Tabitha Ford, Sr. OF Kedy Tirado, Sr. OF Marissa Winslow, So. 2B-P Lucy Urena, Jr. P Ashley Cambisaca, So. OF Elisa Lebron, Jr. SS Sophia Green, Jr. 3B-OF Arielle Aquino, Jr. OF Clara Pratts.

    Top newcomers: So. C Felishka Ramirez, Fr. OF Erin Blake, Fr. OF Emily Pratts.

    Outlook: The Eagles won the Constitution State Conference East Division title a year ago, finishing 9-10 overall. Blake will field a younger team in 2016, but belives Grasso Tech has the potential to contend again in the conference and qualify for the state tournament.

    Norwich Tech

    Coach: Russ Stockton (3rd year)

    Key returnees: Jr. P Madison Bodley, Jr. SS Abbey Pater, Sr. 3B Daria Stifel, Jr. CF Vanessa Gumbs.

    Top newcomers: Fr. Emnet Miskiewicz, Fr. Hannah Smith.

    Outlook: The Warriors are young (Stifel is the lone senior), so there will be some growing pains, but Stockton expects Madison to be one of the top pitchers in the Constitution State Conference and provide Norwich Tech with the opportunity to be competitive in the conference and make a push to qualify for the state tournament.

    Old Lyme

    Coach: Becky Hall (2nd year)

    Key returnees: Sr. SS Kyra Teixeira, Jr. 1B Lexi Duddy, Sr. CF Molly Biega, Sr. IF-P Alexis Taylor, So. IF-OF Liz Richard, So. OF Natalie Golden, Jr. IF Rachel Hayward, So. 1B Emma Sked.

    Top newcomer: Fr. C Lilah McAndrew.

    Outlook: Hall received from bad news right from the start when she learned starting pitcher Audrey Gavin, a starter, would miss the entire season after suffering a knee injury during the basketball season. That means the Wildcats, who went 8-13 a year ago and qualified for the Class S tournament, will have to prepare a new pitching staff. Old Lyme should be solid defensively, however, and Hall believes a return to the state tournament is an attainable goal, as well as being competitive in the always-strong Shoreline Conference.

    East Lyme shortstop Kaylie Crosby makes a leaping catch on a Ledyard line drive during the first round of last year's Class L state tournament. Crosby was an All-ECC and all-state selection. (Tim Martin/The Day)
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