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Friday, April 5, 2013

Familiar faces coaching local softball teams

HIgh School Softball

Every day you hear about how tough it is to coach high school sports and how many good coaches are walking away.

But for area softball programs at least, the trend seems to be reversing. Four of the 10 area coaches this spring are over 60, a couple well past that mark. ...

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Every day you hear about how tough it is to coach high school sports and how many good coaches are walking away.

But for area softball programs at least, the trend seems to be reversing. Four of the 10 area coaches this spring are over 60, a couple well past that mark.

Longtime Merrimack athletic director Joe Raycraft is the new softball coach at Campbell. He’s 68. Wake Stillman, 64, coached at Goffstown for 25 years before retiring. He quickly came out of retirement to coach at Nashua High School North.

They join two good friends who have been coaching a long time, Denny Claire, who is entering his 26th season at Wilton-Lyndeborough and his former Wilton assistant Dick Albert, now in his 14th season at Milford.

Each has won at least one state championship with Claire leading the way. His Warriors captured their sixth title last spring and have appeared in 12 title games since Claire took over in 1988.

But the best shot at a local title this spring might be a school that hasn’t reached the finals since Raycraft led it to its only championship in 1988, Merrimack.

Coach Jim Peltak’s Tomahawks have seven starters back from a team that reached the semifinals last spring, including pitcher Brittany Camera and outstanding sophomore catcher Ashley Grassini.

Alvirne softball made history the last two years, becoming the first team in school history to win back-to-back state championships, the first two in program history.

But the player who pitched and helped hit them to those titles, Taylor Carbone, has graduated.

Senior Jenna Giannelli, a starting infielder on the two title teams, worked hard in the off-season to fill the pitching void and the Broncos should score runs with table setters Kaycee Carbone and Mikayla Powlowsky at the top of the lineup and Siena-bound senior Chelsey Drew knocking them in.

Just two years ago Nicole Adamson led Hollis Brookline to its first softball final. She’ll be looking to do the same thing this spring with Bishop Guertin.

Nashua High School South coach Ian Horseman is hoping the Panthers, 7-11 a year ago, can climb over the .500 mark while Stillman at North is taking over a program that went 0-18 last spring. There’s no place to go but up.

Hollis Brookline went 18-0 during the regular season last spring, earning the top seed in Division II, but was upset by 16th seed Windham in the opening round.

The Cavaliers should be strong again, led by outstanding senior catcher Charli Bradshaw and senior center fielder Sarah Drazin, both big parts of the title run in 2011.

Milford has eight starters back from a team that went 12-8 and lost in the quarterfinals. Anything short of a semifinal appearance would be a disappointment.

Souhegan lost eight of nine starters to graduation, returning only second baseman Valerie Mukai, but the Sabers like what they’ve seen so far from freshman pitcher Hannah Cochan.

Raycraft has a rarity among Division III teams, a pair of Division I recruits. Junior catching standout Brittany McNulla has already committed to Virginia, while senior Chelsea Caynon has signed with Seton Hall.

But it will all come down to pitching for the Cougars, as it will for Wilton-Lyndeborough, who have seven starters a back from a Division IV title team but not Sam Broderick, who pitched them into the finals three times in four years.

DIVISION I

ALVIRNE

COACH: Sarah Brisk (second year)

LAST YEAR: 18-4, won Division I title.

RETURNING STARTERS: Jenna Giannelli, sr., 2b/p; Chelsey Drew, sr., utility; Mikayla Powlowsky, sr., of; Erin Craven, sr., of; Christina Guessferd, sr., of; Kaycee Carbone, so., ss.

OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: none.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Evelyn Susco, jr., c; Mariah Cote, jr., inf; Megan Radewicz, jr., p/1b.

KEYS TO A SUCCESSFUL SEASON: “The key, as always is pitching and defense,’’ Brisk said. “We should be able to score some runs.’’

BISHOP GUERTIN

COACH: Nicole Adamson (first year)

RETURNING STARTERS: McKenzie Marr, sr., p/of; Kenzie McCabe, sr., inf; Katie Haghdan, jr. inf; Stacie Cornell, jr., of; Holly Kathios, so., p/inf; Kristina Terrazzano, so., p/inf; Tori Dubois, so., c/of; Leah Perez, so., of

OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNER: Haley Mahan, jr., inf.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Anna Casey, jr., Olivia Calanuoni, jr., Gina Pustizzi, so., Jocelyn Petry, so., c.

COACH’S COMMENT: “We have a great group of young ladies who are excited by the challenge of a competitive division,’’ Adamson said. “They know that all individual improvement will be to the benefit of the team as a whole.’’

MERRIMACK

COACH: Jim Peltak (fourth year)

LAST YEAR: 13-8, lost in Division I semifinals.

RETURNING STARTERS: Jessica Lavoie, sr., 1b/of; Jacklyn Bruno, sr., c/of; Angelica Gonzalez, jr., inf; Brittany Camera, jr., p/inf; Laura Peltak, jr., of; Renee LeClaire, so., inf; Ashley Grassini, so., c.

OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Holly Lewis, sr., c; Nicole Brennan, sr., of.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Lauren Gerhard, fr., utility; Alexis Katsambelis, so., ss/of; Jackson Gutekunsp, fr., 2b/of.

COACH’S COMMENT: “We should be able to score runs,’’ Peltak said. “Obviously it comes down to pitching and defense and if we do that reasonably well we should be in every game.’’

NASHUA NORTH

COACH: Wake Stillman (first year)

LAST YEAR: 0-18, didn’t qualify for Division I tournament.

RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Gracie Countie, sr., p; Hailey Reed, jr., c; Meghan Dezurick, sr., inf; Jessica Cote, sr., inf; Ellen Cook, sr., c/inf/of; Ashley Desmarais, sr., of; Megan Delipena, sr., inf; Cassie Page, jr., 2b; Natasha Kumar, jr., inf; Erica White, so., inf.

PROMSING NEWCOMERS: Hannah Neverett, fr., inf; Sarah Odieno, so., p/inf.

COACH’S COMMENT: “We want to begin to turn things around,’’ Stillman, “and part of that is to have fun and enjoy playing the game the right way.’’

NASHUA SOUTH

COACH: Ian Horseman (second year)

LAST YEAR: 7-12, Lost in the preliminary round of the Division I Tournament.

RETURNING STARTERS: Sami Durkee, sr., c/of; Shaylyn Freitas, sr., inf; Kylie Perkins, sr., of; Morganne Mackay, sr., p/inf; Sarah Voorhis, sr., utility; Teddi Kramer, jr., inf.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Jasmine Perez, so., p/utility; Mackenzie Kane, sr., inf; Samantha Goy, jr., p/inf; Shannon Talbot, jr., inf; Nicole Fitzgibbons, jr., utility; Elyssa Willard, fr., utility.

COACH’S COMMENT: “To be successful this season we need to play team orientated softball,’’ Horseman said, “to focus on making the basic, fundamental plays and stay together as a team.’’

DIVISION II

HOLLIS BROOKLINE

COACH: Tim Girzone (second year)

LAST YEAR: 17-1, lost in opening round of the Division II tournament.

RETURNING STARTERS: Charli Bradshaw, sr., c; Sarah Drazin, sr., cf; Ashley Skey, so., p/inf/of; Kayla Sliger, jr., inf/of; Lori Lavey, sr., 2b.

RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Celeste Marsan, so., utility; Tori Sargent, so., 3b.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Dominique Mills, jr., p/1b; Steph Buchanan, fr., c/of; Lindsey Szewczyk, jr, 1b.

COACH’S COMMENT: “First we need to stay healthy,’’ Girzone said, “then I’m looking for versatility, players who can play more than one position.’’

MILFORD

COACH: Dick Albert (14th season)

LAST YEAR: 11-7, lost in Division I quarterfinals.

RETURNING STARTERS: Danielle Atkinson, jr., p; Jennifer Dupuis, jr., 3b; Harleigh Caswell, sr., c; Julia Mazzeo, so., cf; Kaitlyn Nelson, so, of/1b; Katherine Paul, jr., of/1b; Becca Schoolcraft, sr., of; Brittany White, sr., ss.

RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: none.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Erin Tyrell, fr., 2b/p; Cora Rogers, fr., of; Marrissa Allen, fr., of.

COACH’S COMMENT: “I’m excited about this team,’’ Albert said. “We have eight starters back and most of the kids have worked hard on their games last summer.’’

SOUHEGAN

COACH: Andrea Crocker (fifth season)

LAST YEAR: 13-6, Lost in Division II semifinals.

RETURNING STARTERS: Valerie Mukai, jr., ss.

RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Megan Howard, sr., c/1b; Cori Sousa, jr., 1b/p; Abrie Davis, jr., 3b; Lauren McCormick, so., c/2b; Sarah Lafleur, so., cf.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Samantha Allen, so., inf; Kaley Ahern, so., 1b/of; Hannah Cochran, fr., p/ss; Cassidy Alger, fr., c/3b; Jordan Catanuso, so., rf/2b; Alli Canavan, fr., 1b/p.

KEYS TO A SUCCESSUL SEASON: “It will be important for us to gel defensively as many of our starting positions are open to new players,’’ Crocker said. “Offensively we have a nice balance of power and speed and we’ll need to use both.’’

DIVISION III

CAMPBELL

COACH: Joe Raycraft (first season)

LAST YEAR: 18-3, lost in the Division I semifinals.

RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Chelsea Caynon, sr., 1b; Emily Paquin, jr, p/of; Brittany McNulla, jr., c; Laura King, so., inf; Carrie Fernandez, so., inf; Hannah Neild, so., of/c.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Shelby Trompke, jr, p/of; Rachel Stanhope, so., inf; Amanda Simoneau, so., p/inf; Meaghan Coughlin, so., inf; Emma Kiczkawski, so., p/inf; Gianna Cataldo, so., inf; Amanda Gibbons, fr., of/c; Haleigh Cardello, fr., p/inf; Sarah Hobbs, fr., inf; Olivia Martinage, fr., p; Mikaela Page, fr., inf/of.

COACH’S COMMENT: “With just one senior, we are very young,’’ Raycraft said, “but we do have six kids with varsity experience.’’

DIVISION IV

WILTON/LYNDEBOROUGH

COACH: Denny Claire (26th year)

LAST YEAR: 20-0, won Division IV title.

RETURNING STARTERS: Andrea Heck, sr., 1b; Casey Jenkerson, sr., 2b; Sammi Bosquet, jr., 3b; Jenna Bragdon, so., cf; Kim Edmonds, jr, lf; Deanna Davidson, sr., p/ss; Sophie Levert, jr, rf.

OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Laurie Blais, so., utility; Ryane Sullivan, jr., of; Alycia Waterman, so., of.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Ally Schwab, fr., c; Sara Holka, fr., p/ss; Tesa Simpson, fr., inf/of; Julia Joyal, fr., utility; Cassie Cavarretta, fr., utility; Zandra Morris, fr., p.

COACH’S COMMENT: “I think we’ll be strong offensively,’’ Claire said. “We’ll need to be strong defensively because the ball will be in play more and we’ll be dealing with more base runners.’’