Local softball teams looking to bounce back this spring
By TOM KING
If you don’t think high school coaches and players don’t carry the frustration and anger of early round tournament upset losses during a spring sports season, guess again.
Last year two local regular season unbeatens, Division II’s Milford and Campbell in Diviion III were upset in their respective quarterfinals. Also, Wilton-Lyndeborough was 15-3 in Division IV and didn’t make it past the quarters, either.
It was stunning.
“Redemption began March 18,” Rines said, notiing the time for mourning is done. “That’s all I have to say about that.”
Yes, that big day back in 2017 when Milford and Bishop Guertin both won state titles seems a while ago. Guertin is still rebuilding in Division I, but Milford should be a big contender in Division II, especially with the return of slugging 2018 Co-Telegraph Player of the Year Raven Comtois. Her co-winner, Wilton-Lyndeborough’s Lexi Balam, is also back to lead the Warriors’ potential comeback.
Campbell will have a strong returning base as well, but as third-year coach Eric Gibbons said, these upsets in his division happen all the time.
“Division III is hard to gauge,” Gibbons said. “An average team with a good pitcher can be dangerous. We focus on our game, not theirs.”
Alvirne was the only Division I tourney team last year (also losing in the quarters), and the Broncos have a new coach in former Dracut (Mass.) mentor April Eringis. Guertin, as we said, is building its program back up.
“We have a number of players who our new to our program and this level of softball,” Cards coach Leah Maciejewski said. “If they’re able to adjust, then we should be competitive.”
Meanwhile, watch out for Nashua North, which has a good group of juniors back as its nucleus. “I think a lot of teams are going to overlook us,” Titans coach Jenna Giannelli said, “and I’m excited to be the team that sneaks up on them and gives them a run for their money.”
That’s confidence. Nashua South, which finished 4-14 should improve as well; in coach Kevin Handy’s first season they almost snuck into the tourney. “I envision us to be a balanced team on offense with a good mix of small and long ball. We do compete in the toughest division in the state.”
And Merrimack could be a tourney team this year as well with new coach Greg Cochrane, who had nothing but success in four years at St. Thomas.
Remember, state-wide Goffstown, Portsmouth and Windham have made the move up to Divison I, and all could be tough along with defending champion Concord, runnerup Spaulding and traditional power Salem.
The area’s other Division II teams, Souhegan and Hollis Brookline, are starting from different points. The Cavs under new coach Frank Lukovits, a noted ASA coach, will be looking to move forward from a 3-13 rebuilding year. The Sabers won 10 games and are bringing eight starters back. Competition for both Souhegan and Milford among contenders will be defending champion John Stark.
White Mountains, Berlin, Belmont, Gilford and Mascenic are potential contenders to battle the Cougars in Division III.
In Division IV, the heavy favorite is defending champ Epping, which brings a ton of players back. But Wilton-Lyndeborough, which lost by a run to Colebrook in last year’s quarterfinals, returns six starters, including the talented Lexi Balam. Remember, the Warriors had a taste of the final four two years ago as a surprise team. “Not getting there last year is really motivating them,” longtime Warriors coach Denny Claire said.
Here’s a look at the area’s 10 motivated teams, most of whom open Monday (field conditions permitting) while North opens on Tuesday:
COACH: April Eringis (first year).
LAST SEASON: 12-8, lost to Winnacunnet in quarterfinals.
RETURNING STARTERS: Haley Peaslee, sr. c; Alicia Salvalso, sr. inf; Alexis Charbonneau, jr. 1b; Kiara Chase, sr. p; Kayli Boucher, so. of.
OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Megan Jacques, p; Ariadne Metzler, sr. of; Jacey Bryant, jr. inf-of; Kayliana Secchiaroli, so. 3b.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Mia Francisco, fr. inf; Cortney Marioles, so. Inf-of-p.
COACH’S COMMENTS: “I am looking forward to seeing what we can do this season,” Eringis said. “We are really starting o come together as a geam, and I hope that our hard work pays off.”
COACH: Leah Maciejewski (second year).
LAST SEASON: Did not qualify for tournament.
RETURNING STARTERS: Ana Kwiecinski, sr. inf; Elizabeth Ross, jr. inf; Taylor Cushion, jr. utitilty; Stephanie Coulombe, so. Inf; Petra Bajdek, so.inf; Emma Charron, so.utility.
OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: None.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Madelynn Bowen, fr. utilty; Skyla Grenier, fr. inf.
COACH’S COMMENTS: “With a solid group of returners and some talented newcomers, we’re loking to make an impact this year in Division I,” Majciewski said.
COACH: Greg Cochrane (first year)
LAST SEASON: 4-14, did not qualify for tournament.
RETURNING STARTERS: Brenna Davenport, sr. inf; Ashley Turcotte, sr. inf; Jess Trahan,sr.inf; Kaleigh Blades, sr.inf.; Mandi Delibac, jr.p.
OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Demetria Gonzalez, jr. of; Lindsey Hui, so.of; Erin Knauer, so. of.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Emma Camberlain, fr. p;Grace Lawton, fr. utility.
COACH’S COMMENTS:“The players and coaches are excited and ready for a successful 2019 season,” Cochrane said. “This is a talented, high energy, group of committed athletes. Together we will put the work in needed to be a competitive team within the division.”
COACH: Jenna Giannelli (third year).
LAST SEASON: 4-13, did not qualify for tournament.
RETURNING STARTERS; Alexis Miranda, jr. inf; Thavary Hay, jr. inf; Elizabeth Deck, jr. of; Erin Bourgeois, jr. of-c; Abigail Little, p; Jamie Parker, inf; Nicole Perault, jr. inf-of; Emily Blondin, jr. p.
OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Morgan Laforge, Kayleigh Eckenrode.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Zianna Ramos, Mackenzie Tanner.
COACH’S COMMENTS: “Our offensive lineup is growing stronger each year, and with an immensely talented junior class of starters, our team finally has the experience to do some damage,” Giannelli said.
COACH: Kevin Handy (second season).
LAST SEASON: 4-14, did not qualify for tournament.
RETURNING STARTERS: Catherine Covert, jr. inf; Amber Dube, sr. of; Erica Frothingham, jr. inf-p; Choloe Kelble-Goforth, jr. c; Sarah Picard, jr. inf.
OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Natalie Ward, so. p.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Elizabeth Thibault, jr. p; Alexis Roberge, so.inf-c.
COACH’S COMMENTS: “We bring back five startes and some hungry newcomers who are ready to compete,” Handy said. “We’ll take it one game at a time and go compete like I know we can. I’m excited for the season.”
COACH: Frank Lukovits (first year).
LAST SEASON: 3-13, did not qualify for tournament.
RETURNING STARTERS: Cassidy Pigott, sr. inf; Skylar Mack, sr. in; Sofia Barassi, sr. of; Kara Lukovits, sr. inf; Delayni Kovalchek, sr. inf.
OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Kylie Krivis, jr.of; Abi Blasi, jr. inf-of; Marisa Brickner, so.p; Jess Hubert, jr. of.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Allison Johnson, fr. p.
COACH’S COMMENTS: “I expect a good level of improvement this year,” Lukovits said. “We have a great group of girls who are anxious to sow their new coach what they can do.”
COACH: Jim Rines (sixth season).
LAST SEASON: 16-1, lost to Coe-Brown in quarterfinals.
RETURNING PLAYERS: Raven Comtois, sr. c-of-1b; Abby Stillwagon, jr. cf; Abby Sites, sr.3b; Jenna DeAngelis, jr. p-ss; Shannon Harbison, jr. of-p; Amanda Atkinson, jr. ss-2b; Cora Holtshouser, jr. of-2b.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Brenna Parker,jr.1b; Kaitlyn Houghton, jr. 2b; Alice Fortin, fr. of-in.
COACH’S COMMENTS: “We have had 360 days to get over our 2018 season,” Rines said.
COACH: Tony Doucet (second year).
LAST SEASON: 10-7, lost to Coe-Brown in prelims.
RETURNING STARTERS: Mary Rothhoff, jr.c; Megan Tupaj, jr.1b; Lucy Stover, sr. 2b; Jenna Speer, jr.3b; Cameron Whitney, jr. p; Ava Van Ballengooyen, so.of; Callie McBride, jr. of; Carrie Speer, sr.of.
OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Margo Redway, sr.of; Julia Kalinowski, sr.of.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Olivia Harnish, fr.p-ss; Danielle Drobat, fr.3b.
COACH’S COMMENTS: “We graduated one senior (shortsop Madison Robicheau), and while it will be difficult to replace her, we’re returning eight starters,” Doucet said. “With a couple of talented freshmen added to the group, we expect to improve on last year.”
COACH: Eric Gibbons (third year).
LAST SEASON: 17-1, lost to Belmont in quarterfinals.
RETURNING PLAYERS: Marissa Carignan, sr.p; Abigail Grey, sr.c; Meghan Gibbons, sr. 1b-c; Alicia McKenna, jr. of; Emily Gamache, jr. of; Lorili Brown, jr. utility.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Riley Gamache, so.; Emily Cooper, so.; Maddi Davis,so.; Alexa Roberts, so.
COACH’S COMMENTS: “We are a younger team than we were, but have great talent,” Gibbons said. “Chemistry and teammwork will be our biggest strength.”
COACH: Denny Claire (32nd year)
LAST SEASON: 16-4, lost to Colebrook in quarterfinals.
RETURNING STARTERS: Janel Bachand, sr. c-inf; Lexi Balam, sr. p; Emma Skelly, sr. of; Rachel Christino, sr. inf; Sam Yurcak, so. inf-of., Brooke Lane, fr. inf.
OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Sophia Sistach, so. of; Tiffany Cuddihy, so.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Maddy Chase, so.; Caitlin Witt, fr.; Madison Raymond, fr.; Karen Vich and Abby Dowling (eighth grade).
COACH’S COMMENTS: “Staying healthy will be a big key,” Claire said. “The key will be getting last year’s non-starting players and this year’s new players ready to play at the varsity level. This team has one goal, and that’s to get to Plymouth.”