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A Rebuild in Sunapee? Hardly

  • Sunapee head coach Bonnie Cruz checks the form of pitcher Hannah Cooney, center, while she works out with teammate Ellie Frederick at Sherburne Gym in Sunapee, N.H., on April 3, 2018. The defending state champion Lakers open their season away from home with seven straight road games. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Sunapee junior Elizabeth Bennett, right, and her teammates warm up their arms with short throws during a workout at Sherburne Gym in Sunapee, N.H., on April 3, 2018. While the Lakers are young with one senior on the squad, the school has won 8 titles over the last 10 sports seasons between girls soccer, girls basketball and softball heading into this spring. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Sunapee head coach Bonnie Cruz talks about her team during a practice in Sunapee, N.H., on April 3, 2018. Cruz will be leading the young team in her 10th season as the Lakers' coach. “We’re excited. We’re ready to go,” she said. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Sunapee junior Hannah Cooney, foreground, and sophomore Ellie Frederick warm up their pitching arms during an indoor workout in Sunapee, N.H., on April 3, 2018. While the three-time reigning state champions lost their dominant starting pitcher and several others to graduation, the Lakers are looking forward to a strong season. "There are still a lot of girls in this program who know how to win," said coach Bonnie Cruz. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Sunapee — The three-time reigning NHIAA Division IV champion Sunapee High softball team lost its dominant starting pitcher and three-fourths of its infield to graduation, yet the Lakers’ prospects remain solid heading into the 2018 season.

Into the circle steps left-handed thrower Hannah Cooney, a junior who learned much from predecessor Katie Frederick and spent the offseason sharpening her skills and mechanics.

Catcher Ellie Frederick, a sophomore, is good friends with Cooney and the pair developed on-field chemistry during Cooney’s four starts and nine appearances last season.

The batterymates will cornerstone a program that remains confident despite losing multi-year staples Jessica Parsons, Meggy Frederick and Faith Larpenter, along with Katie Frederick.

It’s understandable that a Sunapee High girls program would anticipate success. Between girls soccer, girls basketball and softball, the Lakers have captured eight titles over the last 10 sports seasons.

“We’re excited. We’re ready to go,” 10th-year coach Bonnie Cruz said. “The school graduated a lot of great athletes, but they still won a soccer championship this year. There are still a lot of girls in this program who know how to win.”

Roughly half of Sunapee’s roster played for that soccer title-winner, including its lone senior, Kalleigh Durkee. After manning various outfield positions, she’s slated to replace Parsons at first base. Junior Elizabeth Bennett, a strong hitter, likely will move from the outfield to replace Larpenter at third, while sophomore shortstop Tess Pallin is the team’s lone returning infield starter.

Second base, previously manned by Meg Frederick, remains open for candidates Star Lucas, Erin Moynihan and Mikayla Passage.

Lucas and Moynihan are juniors, while Passage is one of six freshmen. The others — Miah Hamm, Mackenzie Wrightington, Anah Durkee, Kylie Robbins and Kathryn Hastings — will compete for outfield spots.

“It’ll be interesting, because a lot of young players are going to have opportunities this year,” Cruz said. “A lot of last year’s outfielders are going to be infielders, so it leaves openings.”

Robbins, a transfer student from Florida, sat out Tuesday’s practice in Sherburne Gym with a foot injury. The rest of the team’s freshmen previously played on Sunapee’s middle school program under coach Kirk Romein, now Cruz’ assistant and junior varsity coach.

“They all had strong development,” Romein said. “They’ve all been playing since they were little kids. It’s a new year and a new challenge (for the varsity team). We’re a little younger this year and might take our lumps, but I think we’re going to be ready to go.”

Sunapee last weekend ventured to Mashpee, Mass., on Cape Cod, where it played scrimmages and preseason games against teams from the Cape and Nantucket.

“That was definitely valuable to get ready for the season,” Cooney said. “It was great to get out there and play.”

Sunapee was limited to only about six outdoor practices all of last season because of poor weather and conditions. Outdoor possibilities appear more promising this year — Tuesday’s modest snowfall notwithstanding.

“Our field is actually in great shape right now,” Cruz said. “But it’s snowing today, so we’ll see how it goes.”

Like last year, the Lakers open with seven straight road games, with tilts at presumed D-IV contenders Wilton-Lyndeborough and Derryfield comprising two of the first four. The tradeoff is that eight of Sunapee’s last nine are at home, when conditions are generally more favorable.

“I actually love the schedule the way it’s been, because our home field is beautiful toward the end of the year,” Cruz said. “Plus there’s so much going on late in the year — graduation, proms, that kind of thing — that it’s great not to be traveling as much.”

Cooney refined her pitching skills in a summer league last year, then met with Cruz weekly for one-on-one sessions. A consistently accurate fastball thrower, they worked on strengthening her change-up and overall delivery mechanics.

“I love pitching because it’s a competition with yourself to get better,” Cooney said. “We did a lot of drills on releasing the ball. Not bending over and keeping your back straight helps the ball go where you want it to because it doesn’t rise as much.”

Not catching for her older sister will require some minor adjustments for Ellie Frederick, especially since Cooney is a lefty. Frederick will double as Cooney’s backup in the circle, with Passage capable of backing Frederick up behind the plate.

“It’ll be a little different this year because we had so many experienced players before, and we’re going to need underclassmen to come in and step up,” Cooney said. “You could say we’re rebuilding, but there’s no reason we can’t be back in the state championship game if we give our best effort.”

Sunapee opens on Wednesday at Farmington.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.