Softball season is here and, as always, expectations are high for most of the local high school teams.
Southington should once again be a favorite to reach, if not win, the Class LL tournament after reaching the semifinals last season. Head coach Davina Hernandez will have to replace some top talent that had been mainstays over the past few seasons and while that might be a problem for some programs, it should not be much of an issue for the Blue Knights.
Outside of Southington, almost every other team - New Britain, Berlin, Newington, Goodwin Tech and Innovation - were able to reach postseason play in 2018. Plainville was the lone team that failed to qualify in its respective state tournament, but saw some improvements over a tough season.
As is the case in every season, though, only time will tell.
Here is a closer look at the teams:
Head coach: Joel Simmone (6th season)
Last year: 13-7, Lost in second round of Class LL tournament
Key losses: Gabby Roy (shortstop), Cristina Velazquez (catcher), Gianna Gonzalez (infield)
Key returnees: Josleen River (junior, pitcher), Makaila Masterson (senior, outfielder/DH/second base), Amanda Jacobs (senior, third base), Valentina Hernandez (senior, first base), Paola Martinez (senior, outfield)
Newcomers to watch: Freshman Xandra Silva (freshman, pitcher/shortstop), Liliana Silva (freshman, catcher), Naeska Perez (senior, outfield), Nataly Hernandez (junior, outfield)
Outlook: The Hurricanes once again saw their win production increase from the previous season and they hope to continue that trend this year.
New Britain always brings plenty of athleticism and talent to the field. Most of the time, it’s just a matter of putting everything together come game time. But while the Hurricanes featured a veteran roster last season, this year could have some growing pains, especially early on. The team lost six starters (shortstop, first base, second base, catcher, left field and center field), which will be difficult to replace.
At the same time, New Britain is bringing back some talent that should help notably pitcher Josleen Rivera, outfielder Paola Martinez and third baseman Amanda Jacobs and have a good young group led by freshman Xandra and Liliana Silva.
Overall, this should be a competitive group throughout the season.
Head coach: Jason Pires (16th season, 209-1125 record)
Last year: 14-7, lost in first round of Class M tournament
Key losses: Alexa Lanteri (first base), Michele Cohen (catcher)
Key returnees: Lindsay Walsh (senior, center field), Kelsei Zliczewski (senior, third base), Julia Ladd (senior, outfield), Stefanie Poulin (sophomore, pitcher), Jenna Zup (sophomore, shortstop), Kylie Lanteri (sophomore, infield), Casey Uryfa (sophomore, outfield)
Newcomers to watch: Callie Gendron (junior)
Outlook: Overall, it was a solid season for the Redcoats in 2018. They won five of their final seven games to reach the postseason and while the group will certainly look to carry over that momentum into this season, there will be some question marks along the way.
Berlin didn’t lose many players and brings back a number of key contributors from last year, but as a whole, the roster remains on the younger side. That means there could be games where that youth shows up. Still, that remains to be seen.
Standouts Alexa Lanteri and Michele Cohen, among others have moved on, meaning with senior Lindsay Walsh taking on a bigger role. Walsh had a superb junior year in which she hit .500 with 12 RBI and a .570 OBP.
At the same time, head coach Jason Pires likes the commitment and coachability his players have shown thus far. That could, in the end, help lead to wins.
“I expect us to finish over .500 and contend for a conference championship,” Pires said.
Head coach: Steve Markie (20th season)
Last year: 9-12, lost in first round of Class LL tournament
Key losses: Morgan Stegmaier (catcher), Prachi Dave (third base), Savannah Jelm (utility), and Yasmin Rincon (outfield)
Key returnees: Cyan Gonzalez (senior, shortstop), Rachel Thureson (senior, first base), McKenna Deluca (junior, outfield), Dani Pantano (junior, pitcher)
Newcomers to watch: Hannah DeMarco (catcher), Maddy Ellis (utility), Elisa Taylor (third base)
Outlook: The Indians had a little bit of a down year in 2018 thanks in part to a roster that was on the younger side and still learning to play at the varsity level. But with the group a year older, things should rebound nicely.
Junior pitcher Danielle Pantano is back and the team’s primary thrower and appears to be set for a big year. There is also shortstop Cyan Gonzalez and first baseman Rachel Thureson. Both are mainstays and entering their fourth year as starters. There are some holes that have to be filled, especially in the infield, but appear to have some younger players ready to step in once again.
“If we can score a few runs with timely hitting and the young players can fill holes left from graduation, we believe that this group can win more games and go further in the state tournament as well as compete for the league title,” head coach Steve Markie said.
Head coach: Davina Hernandez (6th season)
Last year: 21-2, Lost in semifinals of Class LL tournament
Key losses: Frankie Ferrante (first base), Kara Zazzaro (pitcher/utility), Sarah Myrick, Mackenzie Beaupre
Key returnees: Abby Lamson (senior, infield), Chrissy Marotto (senior, infield), Gabby Verderame-Malachowski (senior, outfield), Julia Theriault (senior, pitcher), Katelyn Lipsky (junior, pitcher)
Outlook: The expectation, like always, for the Blue Knights this season will be championship or bust. Southington lost a tough game to Amity in the Class LL semifinals
The Blue Knights did lose some key pieces from last season, most notably first baseman Frankie Ferrante and pitcher Kara Zazzaro, who logged 127.1 out of a losing 144 innings. This year could be more of a pitchers by committee, but like every seaspn, it is just re-up and reload for head coach Davina Hernandez and by all accounts, there is plenty of young talent to go along with a solid group of veteran players.
Abby Lamson, Chrissy Marotto and Gabby Verderame-Malachowski figure to be some of the most important. Marotta hit .486 with six doubles, five triples and three home runs, while Lamson batted .463 with a team-high 34 RBI.
It’s still a little too early to tell if Southington will get back in the title game once again, but the Blue Knights’ odds are always so much better than most.
Head coach: Scott Marcucio (3rd season)
Last year: 6-14, missed Class M playoffs
Key losses: N/A
Expected key returnees: Annie Roux (sophomore), Kayla Wisz (sophomore)
Outlook: It was another rough season for the Plainville softball team in 2018. But while the Blue Devils went just 6-14, it was a one-win improvement from the season before and just like last year, this season should be about continuing the growth of the program.
Out of the 16 players Plainville had on its roster last season, 11 were either sophomores or freshmen. There weren’t any seniors. That means there was plenty of room to learn and grow and there still could be.
If anything, the Blue Devils will still be able to a number of young players some quality playing time and build up their experience out on the field. And the program appears to have some solid building blocks in Annie Roux and Kayla Wisz.
Either way, Plainville can really only go up.
Head coach: Lauren Rozanski (1st season)
Last year: 11-10, lost in first round of Class S tournament
Key losses: Paola Barbosa (shortstop), Leina Rivera (infield), Teresa Lopez (catcher), Janeris Martinez (outfield)
Key returnees: Valerie Ramirez (junior, pitcher), Izzi Hancock (senior, catcher/first base), Soannie Arroyo (senior, pitcher/utility), Aiyana Montes (junior, third base)
Newcomers to watch: Thalia Rosado (freshman, shortstop), Jamie Santana (freshman, second base), Avalise Hernandez (freshman, shortstop/second base), Gabby Radin (freshman, utility)
Outlook: Things will be a little different for the Gladiators this season. Lauren Rozanski enters her first year as the team’s head coach and takes over a team that reached the state tournament.
But Rozanski will certainly have some work cut out for her. She describes Goodwin Tech as a rebuilding year, having lost six seniors to graduation, including its starting catcher, shortstop, third baseman and left fielder. But at the same time, there is large incoming freshman class that should not only help bolster the roster, but provide plenty of depth and energy.
It could be an interesting season for Goodwin Tech.
Head coach: Maggie Fallon (1st season)
Last year: 15-6, lost in first round of Class S tournament
Key losses: Imani Rosado (first base)
Key returnees: Isabella Orejuela (senior, pitcher), Jierydiaz Garcia (senior, third base), Luicille Rodriguez (junior, first base), Kaylee Dobransky (sophomore, shortstop)
Outlook: The Ravens will once again be under a new head coach this season as Maggie Fallon, an assistant coach last year, takes over for Robert Polselli.
But Innovation does bring back the majority of its team from last season with 14 returning varsity players, including seven starters, and expects to pick up right where it left off last season.
If there is a worry for the Ravens, it’s their hitting. Innovation has struggled in the past against come of the more competitive teams outside of the CRAL and it will need to develop that if it wants to make it past the first round of the state tournament, which is one of the program’s goals.
Inside their conference, the Ravens are the team to beat and shouldn’t have much trouble beating the teams in their league. It should be a good season for Innovation.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org