BRISTOL - Youth doesnâ€™t always mean inexperience. It certainly hasnâ€™t for the Berlin softball team this season.
The Redcoats qualified for the state tournament for the 15th straight season Monday afternoon in large part because of the play of their underclassmen.
Berlin starts four freshmen - pitcher Stefanie Poulin, second baseman Kylie Lanteri, shortstop Jenna Zup, and left fielder Casey Uryga. All four have helped make up for the production of six key starters the Redcoats lost from last season in Vanessa Reimer (SS), Grace Reimer (2B), Emily Cooney (3B), Haley Hauptfeld (C), Jackie Arute (CF) and Sarah Ciscar (RF) and a reason why the team was 8-3 entering Tuesday.
â€śThe youth of our team doesnâ€™t bring us down at all,â€ť Lanteri said. â€śWeâ€™ve had years of experience together, we know the field together and we know where weâ€™re supposed to be.â€ť
â€śAll of the freshmen, weâ€™ve been playing together for many years so weâ€™ve gotten to know everyoneâ€™s abilities,â€ť Poulin added. â€śI think one day we will bring this team to another level.â€ť
Poulin and Lanteri have been playing side by side since their travel softball days and had goals of playing on Berlinâ€™s varsity team since they were little.
â€śMy sister [Alexa] is a senior and I would always go to her games,â€ť Lanteri said. â€śIâ€™ve always wanted to be in the starting lineup, so itâ€™s the dream.â€ť
â€śReaching the postseason, wow,â€ť Poulin said. â€śI honestly have been dreaming of this since I was 5, playing varsity as a freshman.â€ť
Monday afternoon, Poulin pitched a complete game and struck out seven. She didnâ€™t issue a walk and only gave up three hits.
Lanteri went 2-for-4 with an RBI.
â€śStefanie pitched well,â€ť Redcoats head coach Jason Pires said. â€śShe throws three to four pitches all of them very well. Sheâ€™s young so I think sheâ€™ll get stronger with age, but right now, she hits her spot and she doesnâ€™t walk many people. That is a big, big part of this and we talk a lot about that. Really she has done everything weâ€™ve asked. [Kylie]â€™s got a good glove and she can hit for power. [Monday] she got a couple hits and we did things we had to do.â€ť
While Poulin has been a mainstay for Berlin in the pitching circle, Lanteri didnâ€™t always start at second. In the beginning of the season she was the Redcoats catcher but because of an ankle injury, was forced to change positions.
â€śMaybe one day sheâ€™ll be back to catching,â€ť Pires said. â€śBut sheâ€™s an infielder by trade and for most of her career thatâ€™s where sheâ€™ll be.â€ť
In terms of goals, both Poulin and Lanteri want to improve their hitting as well as make a deep run in the tournament. Lanteri also hopes in the weeks to come her ankle gets to be 100 percent so that she can return to her original position.
â€śWe still have a shot at winning conferences and thatâ€™s something we always want to do,â€ť Pires said. â€śWe lost a couple games earlier in the year so we have some work to do but until weâ€™re eliminated thatâ€™s always one of our goals. I think our next goal is a home playoff game. We said maybe five more games would get us a home game, so we plan one at a time and I like to set up goals for them to achieve.â€ť
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860) 801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org