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2018 Upper Valley High School Softball Preview

  • Sunapee celebrates after winning the Divsion IV softball championship against Derryfield by jumping on Meggy Frederick (33) on Saturday, June 10, 2017, at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, N.H. Sunapee won, 1-0. (Valley News - Jovelle Tamayo) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, April 21, 2018

Perhaps nowhere is change more constant than sports, and this year’s Upper Valley softball slate includes a number of programs heavy in transition.

It’ll be the final seasons for both South Royalton and Whitcomb-Rochester, with Bethel’s and Royalton’s school districts merging beginning this summer while Rochester students employ the option of school choice.

A period of adjustment is also in line for reigning VPA Division III champ Oxbow, which was undefeated last year but faces the loss of retired 28-year coach Robin Wozny. In steps Carl Hildebrandt, who at least has been part of the program for years as an assistant.

Hildebrandt is one of several new coaches in the region, joining Hartford’s Bob Beisler and Hanover’s Mariruth Graham. Graham hopes to help revive the Marauders after just one win a year ago and none in 2016. Lebanon, which had just three wins last season, also appears poised to improve.

Meanwhile, Newport, Stevens, Woodstock and Woodsville will look to advance this year. Each posted a winning record in 2017, but all fell in the first round of the playoffs.

A closer look at the teams:

HANOVER

Coach: Mariruth Graham (1).

Last Year: 1-16, missed playoffs.

League: NHIAA Division III.

Returnees: Juniors — Bri Elder (SS), Daria Gundermann (CF), Becca Wilson (P/OF). Sophomores — Bella Bardales (C/3B), Mollie Broder (C/1B), Kelley Finley (OF), Sam Gibbs (P/1B), Emily LeBlanc (2B), Arabella Meacham-Snyder (1B/3B), Sophia Nadeau (OF), Olivia Peterson (OF), Katrina Randall (OF).

Newcomers: Juniors — Cade Morgan (OF). Freshmen — Emilee Jones (OF), Rose Luttmer (OF).

Analysis: The Marauders have just one win over the last two seasons but have an experienced group returning this year — despite possessing no seniors. “We are looking to right the ship,” said Graham. “The team has a lot of veteran players who have set their goals high and expect to compete every time they hit the field.”

HARTFORD

Coach: Bob Beisler (1).

Last Year: 5-10, lost to Otter Valley in first round.

Leagues: VPA Division II, Marble Valley League.

Returnees: Seniors — Kylee Beaucage (P/3B), Emily Ballou (SS), Hannah Ballou (OF), Hannah Cooney (OF), Morgan Jones (C/OF), Sam Walz (P/OF), Jessica Roberts (C/OF), Skye Currier (C/OF). Junior — Kelsie Thibodeau (2B/3B). Sophomore — Kendyl Boisvert (C/OF).

Newcomers: Juniors — Bailey Bean (P), Bianca Severance (P/1B), Carrie Comstock (OF).

Analysis: The Hurricanes haven’t gotten out of the first round in six years, but Beisler might be arriving at an opportune moment. Senior-laden Hartford will be ready to change its fortunes. “This season should be exciting,” Beisler said. “The girls are hitting the ball really well. With an experienced group of seniors, our defense should be solid.”

LEBANON

Coach: Ray Petterson (3).

Last Year: 3-13, missed playoffs.

League: NHIAA Division II.

Returnees: Seniors — Madison Hunt (2B), Madison Tilton (1B), Xandra Wishnefsky (3B). Sophomore — Meghan Olney (LF).

Newcomers: Junior — Allie Amature (2B). Sophomores — Kelsey Carney (CF), Angeleena Davis (CF), Kylee Peck (RF), Kayleigh Trietsch (C), Kaitlyn Veracka (SS),

Analysis: The Raiders’ roster is sprinkled with youth, but the team appears poised to improve this season. “I have high hopes of making it to the playoffs this year, as we have a lot of great talent on the team,” Petterson said. “I feel these players have bonded well leading up to our season, which is an aspect of this program we did not have before.”

MASCOMA

Coach: Billy O’Connell (3).

Last Year: 5-11, missed playoffs.

League: NHIAA Division III.

Returnees: Seniors — Raeleigh Mansur (P), Kayla Hammond (IF/C), Sarah Ruel (IF/OF), Alyssa Hammond (OF). Juniors — Abby Duhaime (IF), Morgan Prentiss (IF), Kaitlyn Pushee (OF), Alexis Richer (OF/C). Sophomore — Samantha Pecararo (IF/P/OF).

Newcomers: Sophomores — Theresa Curtis (C), Renee French (OF). Freshmen — Hannah Wilson (UT), Audrey May (UT), Abby Anderson (UT).

Analysis: With nine returnees, the Royals could be more of a factor in D-III this season. “The expectation is to play .500 or better and hopefully lock up a playoff spot,” O’Connell said. “Barring injuries and with some good luck, I believe that is achievable.”

NEWPORT

Coach: Sam McNeel (5).

Last Year: 11-6, lost to Belmont in first round.

League: NHIAA Division III.

Returnees: Seniors — Kendall Hamilton (3B/OF), Stacia Dame (C), Hailey Perry (SS/OF). Juniors — Meghan Howard (2B/OF), Elizabeth Tremblay (OF). Sophomores — Lacey McNeel (P/SS/1B), Alyssa Burr (1B/P).

Newcomers: Sophomore — Nevaeh Griggs (2B/OF). Freshmen — Kaylie Pennington (P/2B/OF), Erin Seagrove (3B/1B/OF), Shelby Adams (3B/1B/C), Jenna Maheu (OF/SS/C), Kelsey Wheeler (C/3B/2B).

Analysis: The Tigers expect to have improved pitching this season, with Lacey McNeel and Burr each carrying a year of previous varsity experience. Newport will aim for its first home playoff game in four seasons. “The true test for this team will be how the new players make the adjustment from JV to varsity,” Sam McNeel said.

OXBOW

Coach: Carl Hildebrandt (1).

Last Year: 18-0, beat Leland & Gray for state title.

Leagues: VPA Division III, Capital League.

Returnees: Seniors — Bailee Wheeler (C/CF), Erika Slicer (1B), Alyssa Armitage (SB/OF). Juniors — Madie Fornwalt (P), Kaysea Neil (SS), Schyler Hanzas (RF).

Newcomers: Seniors — Jade Butler (OF), Dayne Fisk (OF). Juniors — Lilian Bartlett (2B/CF), Rilee Wadsworth (3B/OF). Sophomores — Melanie Neil (LF), Amber Glaude (IF).

Analysis: Coming off of an undefeated season, the Olympians’ biggest adjustment will be the loss of 28-year coach Robin Wozny. Hildebrandt, however, has been involved in the program for seven seasons, the last four as Wozny’s varsity assistant. “We’re looking to carry the torch for the Oxbow program,” the coach said. “We have some great returning talent and some young players eager to fill roles.”

RIVENDELL

Coach: Don Mitchell (3).

Last Year: 0-10, lost to Peoples in first round.

Leagues: VPA Division III, Central Vermont League.

Returnees: Senior — Sierra Longto (1B/P); Sophomores — Caitlyn Kilmer (3B/1B/C), Eadie Molesworth (C), Katelyn Woodbeck (P/SS). Freshman — Natalie Martin (P/IF).

Newcomers: Senior — Marie Polczyk (UT). Sophomores — Maddie Weeks (OF), Freshmen — Sammy Beaupre (OF), Emma Gagner (OF).

Analysis: Numbers remain an issue for the Raptors, with some of Rivendell’s top athletes suiting up instead for spring soccer or AAU basketball outfits. One exception is Longto, a hoops player during the winter who doubles as the Raptors’ most experienced softball player. “We have five experienced players, and we are counting on them to lead,” Mitchell said. “It will be another learning year for us.”

SOUTH ROYALTON

Coach: Roger McCrillis (35).

Last Year: 6-9, lost to Danville in first round.

Leagues: VPA Division IV, Central Vermont League.

Returnees: Seniors — Grace Pease (IF; injured), Iris Hudson (C/IF), Grace Frary (OF), Sierra Salls (OF). Junior — Paige Ballentine (P/OF). Sophomore — Macey Carbino (1B/3B).

Newcomers: Senior — Kelsi Rogers-Melvin (C/3B). Freshmen — Blake Southworth (P/IF), Taylor Rogers (P/IF), Lilly Hudson (OF), Ashleigh Brown (P/OF), Hannah White (C/IF), Stella Jones (OF).

Analysis: The Royals have a contrasting mix of experience and youth as they play their final season before merging with Bethel next school year. “It will be a challenging year, but it will be fun,” McCrillis said. “We get along very well, and hopefully we will learn a lot this season.”

STEVENS

Coach: Missy Nichols (16).

Last Year: 10-9, lost to Campbell in first round.

League: NHIAA Division III.

Returnees: Senior — Alexis Ford (1B/OF). Juniors — Kate Chambers (1B/CF), Amelia Parizo (3B/OF), Ashlynn Marsh (OF), Jenna Pond (SS), Madison Lapsley (P), Madeline Ferland (3B/OF). Sophomores — Ellee Grenier (2B/LF), Tanner Brown (C/3B).

Newcomers: Juniors — Ryann Ryder (OF), Raegan Burt (C). Sophomore — Hailee LaFont (3B). Freshmen — Morgan Rhoades (P/IF), Makayla Maccioli (C), Zoey Foote (2B), Gabby LaBounty (OF), Caidence Verrill (OF).

Outlook: Nearly all of Stevens’ upperclassmen have suited up for varsity since freshman year, giving the Cardinals a wealth of experience as they attempt to improve. “We want to earn a home playoff spot,” said Nichols. “The girls have been very receptive to team needs with their willingness to shift positions.”

SUNAPEE

Coach: Bonnie Cruz (10).

Last Year: 19-0, beat Derryfield, 1-0, in final for third straight title and second straight undefeated season.

League: NHIAA Division IV.

Returnees: Senior — Kalleigh Durkee (OF). Juniors — Elizabeth Bennett (OF/3B), Hannah Cooney (P/OF), Erin Moynihan (OF), Star Lucas (OF). Sophomores — Eliie Frederick (C/P), Tess Palin (SS), Mikayla Passage (INF/OF/C).

Newcomers: Junior — Maddie French (OF). Freshmen — Mackenzie Wrightington (OF), Miah Hamm (OF), Anah Durkee (OF), Kylie Robbins (OF), Kathryn Hastings (OF).

Analysis: The Lakers will try to maintain their legacy despite losing dominant pitcher Katie Frederick, plus three-quarters of their infield — all strong hitters — to graduation. First-year No. 1 pitcher Hannah Cooney should help keep team on track, although Sunapee will be inexperienced in some areas.

THETFORD

Coach: Mike Pomeroy (2).

Last Year: 7-9, lost to Windsor in first round.

Leagues: VPA Division III, Capital League.

Returnees: Seniors — Brooke Horniak (P), Maddie Kingsbury (SS), Jordan Mousley (P/3B), Alexis Rich (OF), Caitlyn Town (OF). Juniors — Harlee Gray (OF), Shannon Hayes (P/IF), Lily Vaughan (P/IF). Sophomores — Jade Jamieson (P/IF), Ellen Veracka (C/CF).

Newcomers: Sophomores — Maya Wolf (C/OF), Colleen Swasey (OF), Grace Novotny (OF). Freshmen — Jasmine Doody (OF), Crystal Parshley (OF), Becca Wells (C/OF); Eighth Grade — Krystal McKinney (OF).

Analysis: The Panthers will have some players in new positions but should have enough experience and leadership to get over the .500 mark. “As players get accustomed to playing in new roles, we will get stronger as the year goes on,” Pomeroy said.

WHITCOMB-ROCHESTER

Coach: Ray Colton (21).

Last Year: 13-4, lost to West Rutland in title game.

Leagues: VPA Division IV, Central Vermont League.

Returnees: Seniors — Sammy Barcomb (C/IF), Jordan Galluzo (OF/IF), Hayley Mears (SS), Avery Palmer (INF), Katrina Townsend (INF/OF), Kayla Townsend (OF), Krista Townsend (IF/OF), Anna Smith (OF). Junior — Amelia Mattrick (C/IF). Freshman — Fiona Vaillancourt (P/IF).

Newcomer: Eighth Grade — Emily Bean (IF/OF).

Analysis: It will be the final season for the Mountaineers, with Whitcomb merging school districts with Royalton beginning in the fall. Coming off a stellar 2017 campaign, Colton expects to remain a contender despite the graduation loss of pitcher Laura Vallaincourt. “We should be a strong competitor again in our last year,” the coach said.

WINDSOR

Coach: Heather Stearns (1).

Last Year: 3-15, lost to Leland & Gray in quarterfinals.

Leagues: VPA Division III, Marble Valley League.

Returnees: Juniors — Kristin Clark (1B), Jasmine Frazer (2B), Brooke McKeen (3B), Ava Sutton (LF), Angel Sutton (CF), Kacie Charest (C/LF), Carah Rugg (P).

Newcomers: Juniors — Madison Putnam (RF), Ariel Lapine (P/RF). Sophomore — Lexy Merrill (UT). Freshmen — Hannah Wood (SS), Paige Langan (UT), Adi Prior (C/OF).

Analysis: The Yellowjackets’ seven juniors are all third-year varsity players, helping to give Windsor more experience and depth. “Our defense will be solid,” said Stearns, who spent eight years as previous coach Phil Hathorn’s assistant. “Our defense will be solid, and we hope to swing the bats better than last year.”

WOODSTOCK

Coach: Jane Hoisington (6).

Last Year: 9-6, lost to Lake Region in first round.

Leagues: VPA Division II, Marble Valley League.

Returnees: Seniors — Emma Walker (3B), Kennedy Moore (1B). Sophomores — Lizzie Peck (P/OF), Molly Parent (SS/OF), Mackenzie Yates (C/SS/OF).

Newcomers: Seniors — Cassie Hill (OF), Kiara Buker (OF). Sophomores — Kaylee Longley (P/SS/OF), Tessa Steward (IF/OF), Sammi Yates (2B/OF), Bitty Alexander (C), Anna Walker (INF). Freshman — Riley Earle (SS).

Analysis: The Wasps lack varsity experience, but the program’s junior varsity squad developed a lot of this year’s newcomers. “We need to get outside to fully develop the team and game mentality,” Hoisington said. “We should see a lot of growth this year.”

WOODSVILLE

Coach: Dana Huntington (8).

Last Year: 10-7, lost to Derryfield in first round.

League: NHIAA Division IV.

Returnees: Seniors — Suzy Bazzell (INF), Kera Butson (OF), Maggie Daly (C/INF/OF), Kyleigh Lamarre (C/INF), Julianna Locascio (OF), Morgan McHugh (1B), Alyssa Prest (P/INF/OF). Sophomores — Emma Restelli (1B/OF), McKenzie Dennis (P/INF/OF), Sarah Britton (INF).

Newcomers: Seniors — Kirstyn Binford (INF/OF), Ari Cassidy (OF). Freshmen — Emily Prest (INF/OF), Morgan Wagstaff (P/INF/OF)

Analysis: Now five years removed from its last state title, the Engineers are determined for a deep playoff run. “They really want to get to (the final four at Plymouth State University) and are working hard to get there,” said Huntington. “I am looking forward to seeing the newcomers blend in with the returnees to create a cohesive unit.”