Spring H.S. sports preview: Softball

  • Hartford High outfielder Bella Murphy practices catching pop-ups during a team workout on April 7, 2022, in White River Junction, Vt. The Hurricanes do not have any seniors on their roster but Murphy is one of three juniors. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — Tris Wykes —Tris Wykes valley news photographs — Tris Wykes —Tris Wykes

  • Hartford High first baseman Emma Beggs fields a ground ball while Rebecca Keelty watches in the background on April 7, 2022, in White River Junction, Vt. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — Tris Wykes —Tris Wykes valley news photographs — Tris Wykes valley news photographs — Tris Wykes

  • Hartford High softball coach Danielle Tenney offers instruction during a fielding drill on April 7, 2022, in White River Junction, Vt. Tenney, in her third season guiding the Hurricanes, is a former Stevens High and Sacred Heart University player. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — Tris Wykes —Tris Wykes valley news photographs — Tris Wykes —Tris Wykes

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/27/2022 12:53:28 PM
Modified: 4/27/2022 12:52:00 PM

Back after a yearlong absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, several Upper Valley softball squads had seasons to remember in 2021, with Oxbow winning the VPA Division III state title and Windsor and White River Valley in the mix as well. Lebanon may not have had postseason success, but the Raiders won three games last year, snapping a 44-game losing streak in the process.

All those teams and more are looking to build on that in 2022. Lebanon, Thetford, Windsor and Woodstock have new head coaches, and the Panthers have seven freshmen who already have varsity experience. Newport and Stevens bowed out early in the playoffs after strong regular seasons, so the Tigers and Cardinals are hoping for better luck in the postseason this time around.

HANOVER

Coach: Mariruth Graham (5th season).

Last year: 2-11, lost in first round to John Stark.

League: NHIAA Division II.

Returners: Seniors — Izzy Kachikis (SS), Skouly Kachikis (3B/P), Grace Lewandowski (OF), Haily Stewart (C/P). Junior — Natalia Somoff (CF). Sophomores — Abby Campfield (P/IF), Sage Johnson (2B), Jessica Lobb (P), Rhea Veeraready (OF).

Newcomers: Senior — Sophie Prescott (OF). Sophomores — Emma Campfield (1B/C), Bella Hunt (OF). Freshmen — Zabava Halchenko (OF), Clancy Killebrew (2B), Willa Merrill (2B/SS), Gwen Riordan (IF), Lily Smith (3B/OF), Hazel Tomkins (3B), Kit Tullar (2B).

Analysis: The newly-renamed Bears struggled last season with an inexperienced group, but this year's bunch is a more balanced mix of veterans and younger players.

"There is healthy competition and camaraderie between the newcomers and returners, which allows us to continue the work and find success while also building for the future," Graham said. "Several returners have volunteered to learn to pitch to give us more depth on the mound."

HARTFORD

Coach: Danielle Tenney (2nd season).

Last year: 5-11, lost in quarterfinals to Enosburg Falls.

League: VPA Division II.

Returners: Senior — Hailie Defabiis (3B). Junior — Marina Grassi (P). Sophomores — Rebecca Keelty (2B), Harper Robinson (C), Miranda Rogers (P), Madison Willey (SS), Logan Evans (P).

Newcomers: Juniors — Emma Beggs (OF), Izabella Murphy (OF). Freshmen — Paige Vielleux (C), Morgan Curtis (P).

Analysis: Seven starters return on what is still a very young team, with the sophomore core set to take on more of a leadership role. If the pitching staff is able to improve on their struggles from last year, the Hurricanes could take a big step forward.

"This group has a lot of passion for the game and are very quick learners with a lot of potential," Tenney said. "Our pitchers put in a tremendous amount of work in the offseason, and we look forward to their success this season and seasons to come."

LEBANON

Coach: Bethany Robinson (1st season).

Last year: 3-10, lost in first round to Mascoma.

League: NHIAA Division III.

Returners: Seniors — Alexcia Matson (OF/IF), Alyssa Smith-Duff (OF), Makayla Finnell (C). Juniors — Ashlee Blashcock (IF/C), Piper Morgan (IF/OF).

Newcomers: Sophomores — Abigail Braley (OF/P), Abigail Stone (C/IF), Aylah Salls (OF), Emma Allen (OF/IF), Gwyneth Schachtner (OF), Hannah Rich (OF/IF), Natalee Pettersen (IF/P), Nitara Murray (IF/OF/P), Olivia Pollard (IF). Freshmen — Keira Salls (OF), Rya Wykes (P/IF/OF).

Analysis: The Raiders snapped their 44-game losing streak and won three games last season, and they'll look to build on that under new head coach Bethany Robinson. The nine-member sophomore class gives Lebanon a core group to build around.

MASCOMA

Coach: Chris Thurston (4th season).

Last year: 8-7, lost in quarterfinals.

League: NHIAA Division III.

Returners: Seniors — McKenzie DeAmicis (3B/P/UTL), Brianna Withington (C/1B/UTL), Margaret Morse (C/1B/UTL), Morgan Towne (OF/3B). Sophomore — Alyssa Webster (2B/OF).

Newcomers: Seniors — Chloe Crate (OF/2B), Jenna Howe (OF/2B), Yasmine Lambert (OF/2B), Cardigan Loupis (OF/2B). Junior — Carmen Zani (OF). Freshmen — Anna Sullivan (SS/UTL), Abigail Waugh (OF).

Analysis: The Royals should hit plenty, with their infielders providing most of the offensive production. DeAmicis has committed to play at Massachusetts Maritime Academy, and Thurston expects Sullivan to make an immediate impact.

NEWPORT

Coach: Sam McNeel (8th season).

Last year: 11-5, lost in quarterfinals.

League: NHIAA Division III.

Returners: Juniors — Maddy Norris (1B/OF), Madison Aldrich (2B). Sophomores — Tanya Sanchez (P/SS), Eden Ritondo (P/SS), Katie Sharron (P/1B).

Newcomers: Freshmen — Peyton Blackinton, Cassie Sanborn, Natasha Carpenter, Jessica McGuire, Rachel LeFrancois, Cheyenne Hannum, Alexis Durgin, Erica Labrecque, Shalynn Bunker, Hailey Michaud.

Analysis: With just two upperclassmen, the Tigers will have their work cut out for them to follow up last year's solid season. Tanya Sanchez should lead the way in the circle, and plenty of freshmen will have a chance to make immediate impacts.

"We should stay competitive in all games," McNeel said. "The talent of this year's freshman class should help on what was a weakened defense from injuries last year."

OXBOW

Coach: Chuck Simmons (2nd season).

Last year: 16-1, won state championship.

League: VPA Division III.

Returners: Seniors — Alexa Kosakowski (3B), Darcy O'Connell (1B), Taylor Bean (1B). Juniors — Makenna Simmons (C), Laila Ellsworth (C). Sophomores — Hadlee Allen (CF), Faith Eastman (LF), Lily Lahaye (SS), Lilly DeGoosh (RF). Freshman — Anastase Bourgeois (P/IF).

Newcomers: Juniors — Brianna Gray (P/IF), Emma Marsh (P/OF). Freshman — Maggi Ellsworth (IF/OF).

Analysis: The Olympians won the VPA Division III title in Chuck Simmons's first season at the helm, and with seven returning starters, they're poised to repeat. Oxbow has mainstays like Alexa Kosakowski, Hadlee Allen and Anastase Bourgeois back for what it hopes is another deep playoff run.

"Even though most of the team is back from last season, we are looking to be stronger and healthier," Simmons said. We are still going to take one day at a time, one game and one opponent at a time."

STEVENS

Coach: Melissa Nichols (21st season).

Last year: 10-4, lost in first round to Bow.

League: NHIAA Division II.

Returners: Seniors — Brianna Frisbee (P), Mackenzie Brown (2B), Emily Peaslee (1B/OF). Juniors — Summer Barrette (3B/OF), Josephine Aiken (3B/P). Sophomores — Kiley Bundy (SS), Elise Smith (C/OF).

Newcomers: Senior — Alexis Boisvert (OF). Junior — Olivia Baker (C/OF). Freshmen — Mia Herbert (P/OF), Zoie Stevens (C/SS), Brianna Marsh (OF), Rhea Quick (1B).

Analysis: One of the smallest schools in Division II, the Cardinals consistently punch above their weight. This year should be another solid group, with five starters returning. Brianna Frisbee will be the leader in the pitcher's circle.

"It's a hard working group with good attitudes," Nichols said. "They push each other to be better than the day before. With a combination of veterans and rookies, there will be a few bugs to work out, but we hope to improve every game."

THETFORD

Coach: Michelle Morgan (1st season).

Last year: 4-11, lost in first round to BFA-Fairfax.

League: VPA Division III.

Returners: Senior — Krystal McKinney (OF). Sophomore — Kelsey Bogie (SS). Freshmen — Eiea Morgan (C), Rebecca Osgood (SS/UTL), Ashlyn Osgood (OF), McKayla Stanley (P/2B), Paige Tremblay (P/OF), Grace Elmer (OF/2B), Crown Morand (OF).

Newcomers: Juniors — Madi Mousley (3B), Taylor West (1B). Sophomore — Whitney Lewis (CF). Freshmen — Elizabeth Waterman (OF), Emilia Santiago (OF).

Analysis: The Panthers have a unique mix of youth and experience — seven of their nine freshmen played as eighth graders last season. Michelle Morgan takes over as head coach and inherits a team that struggled last season, but the potential for several deep playoff runs with the current freshman class is there.

"We may not seed high this year but in the next year or two, I believe we will be real contenders," Morgan said. "This group of girls' skill sets and knowledge of the game will only strengthen with more experience, and they already are showing great skills and knowledge for being so young."

WHITE RIVER VALLEY

Coach: John Rhoades (2nd season).

Last year: 16-1, lost in semifinals to BFA-Fairfax.

League: VPA Division III.

Returners: Senior — Julia Morse (C/IF). Juniors — Rachel Puopolo (OF), Carlie Robinson (P/IF). Sophomores — Tanner Drury (OF), Sadie Kinsley (OF), Abigail Rainville (OF).

Newcomers: Senior — Isabelle Durkee (IF). Juniors — Liyah Fisk-Turkvan (1B), Amya Roussel (IF). Sophomores — Quinn Ensminger (C/IF), Isabella Ashley (1B), Madasin Kill (IF), Joss Ray (IF). Freshman — Ashlyn Rhoades (IF).

Analysis: In their two seasons of competition since the merger, the Wildcats have lost just three games, winning a state title in 2019 and suffering an upset loss in the semifinals last year. This year's group is mostly new, but returning starters Morse, Drury and Kinsley will be key to White River Valley's continued success.

"We are going to be inexperienced, but they work hard," coach Rhoades said. "The plan is to get better every day and be playing our best softball at the end of the season."

WINDSOR

Coach: Kelsey Mason (1st season).

Last year: 9-6, lost in semifinals to Oxbow.

League: VPA Division III.

Returners: Seniors — Meagan Holling (SS), Karen Kapuscinski (1B), Peyton Richardson (P).

Newcomers: Seniors — Taryn Bellimer (C/OF), Sarah DeSchamp (OF), Ember Pikramenos (OF). Juniors — Ash LaVanway (OF/C), Lisa Todd (OF). Sophomores — Fern Day (OF), Sydney Perry (3B), Amber Simonds (P/2B), Maja Thomas (OF), Izabella Towsley (IF/OF). Freshmen — Brianna Barton (C), Helen Ennis (OF), Gianna Felice (IF/OF), Matteson Tenney (IF), Piper Vivian (P/OF).

Analysis: There's not a lot of experience on these Yellowjackets — just three returners on the 18-player roster — but there is plenty of athleticism, with several members of the state champion field hockey and basketball teams. Peyton Richardson, who will play field hockey at Castleton University next year, should carry the load in the circle. Kelsey Mason takes over as head coach from Heather Stearns after coaching the middle school team at Hartford last year.

"While the majority of our players will be new to their roles, they have been putting in a lot of work to earn their positions in the starting lineup," Mason said. "The players have adapted well and are growing each day."

WOODSTOCK

Coach: Angela Allard (1st season).

Last year: 0-5, missed playoffs.

League: VPA Division III.

Returners: Senior — Megan Tarleton (UTL). Juniors — Myah Earle (IF), River Miles (UTL), Dillon Moss (IF/P). Sophomores — Laura Hendee (UTL), Brooke Longley (P/OF).

Newcomers: Junior — Jordan Allard. Sophomores — Charley Crowley, Georgia Tarleton. Freshmen — Kianny Harrington, Anna Robidoux, Luciana Rullo.

Analysis: Last year's COVID-shortened season did not go well for the Wasps, but they will look to turn things around under new head coach Angela Allard. It could be a rebuilding year, with just one senior on the roster.




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