Few high school athletes are as irreplaceable as softball pitchers, who hold not only the ball, but
often the fate of their team, before every pitch.
“Usually, you hope for one very strong pitcher; sometimes, you’re fortunate and have two,” said Shenendehowa coach Dan D’Amboise, who is looking for a dominant No. 1 pitcher after losing seniors Angie Sagnelli and
K.C. Levin from last year’s team that won its fifth consecutive sectional title. “We were fortunate the last few years.”
It’s no coincidence that the two Section II teams that won state
titles last spring rode strong pitching to their championships.
And both Marissa Carpenter of South Glens Falls (Class A) and Jen Mineau of Hoosic Valley give their teams a chance to repeat.
Cohoes’ run to the state Class B semifinals was due, in part, to a dominant pitcher in Courtney
Galuski. Duanesburg returns
Erika Hillebrand to the circle after winning the Class C title before dropping the Class CC/C playoff to Mineau and Hoosic Valley, which has moved up to Class B this year.
Duanesburg will be one of the favorites in the Western Athletic Conference, home to other top pitchers like Adrieanna Diamond of Schoharie, Betsey Towne and Kate Jasper of Saratoga Catholic, Fort Plain’s Kelly Budzik and Mayfield’s JaeDee Lavada.
Shenendehowa lost six starting seniors, but returns one of the best 1-2 combinations in the section in seniors Barb Shea (shortstop) and Lauren Lawler (second base).
“Up the middle, we’re very
solid,” said D’Amboise, who is looking for a good season from senior Emilia Peuluso behind the plate. Center fielder Amanda Ferro has been moved into one of the pitching spots, joining fellow senior Morgan Sprague.
Shenendehowa will face stiff competition in its own division (Suburban Council Blue) before it even gets to the playoffs.
“Since we’ve been on this run, I don’t think the players realize how tough it is to accomplish what we’ve accomplished the last five years,” said D’Amboise, whose 2007 team lost in the state final and finished 24-2. “The teams in our division [Colonie, Saratoga Springs and Shaker] are all very good.
“It’s good to not go in being the favorite.”
Colonie brings back a good portion of a team that went 8-6 in the league, and reached the Class AA sectional final by scoring 16 runs in upsetting Big 10 champ Troy in the quarterfinals and Shaker in the semis before falling to Shenendehowa.
“I don’t think this team will sneak up on anyone,” said Garnet Raiders coach Chris Robilotti, whose returning lineup features catcher Julie Maio, third baseman Kayla Lynch and Alicia Dott. “We’ve got 11 returning seniors, and I think what they did last year will carry over this season.”
Toni Fusco and Angela Johanning provide veteran pitching, and center fielder Elyse Weiglhofer covers a lot of ground.
“I think she’s the best defensive outfielder in the league,” said Robilotti.
Saratoga has come up with an outstanding freshman pitcher each of the past two years, with Alyson Onyon joining Krista Robarge last season.
“They’re both fearless,” said Streaks coach Jeff Harrington, who will be looking to juniors Jen Diemer and Kaci Madden to lead the offense.
“This is the deepest lineup we’ve had, in terms of being able to do different things,” said Harrington, who has only one senior on his roster.
Shaker has its own ace back in Collen Whalen, along with Nicole Dopp and Kayla Koumjian.
Schenectady is looking for a big season, despite losing standouts Brittany Rose and Sara Gallacchi.
“We’re looking for a [Big 10] championship,” said coach Karen Daffner, who moves senior Shannon Riedy into the pitching circle. “We’ve got a good nucleus back.”
Included in that group are first baseman Rachel Csakany, second baseman Amanda McLean, shortstop Leah VanBuren and outfielder Amanda Colafemina.
Hillenbrand’s experience on the mound will help a young Duanesburg team as it matures.
“She’s such a solid player,” said Duanesburg coach John Conway, whose Eagles have won the last three Class C titles. “She’s
tremendous in the circle, and a good hitter.”
Saratoga Catholic hopes to rebound from a first-round sectional ouster. And it has the necessary arms and bats.
Towne and Jasper combined for 17 wins last year, and were steady producers at the plate. Jasper hit .515 with seven triples and scored 18 runs in 66 at-bats; Towne blasted four homers and drove in 34 runs while batting .492.
Third baseman Jen Diggins, outfielder Jenna Carson and first baseman Elisa DiMauro also return, and the Saints will have Tori Raccuia back behind the plate.
“We didn’t know how much we’d have Tori this season after she hurt her knee last year,” said Saints coach Tim Hauprich. “But she wants to catch every game.”
Fort Plain — with Budzik, Jillian Fredericks, Meagan Kane, Souni Souvannason and Brittany Nellis returning — will be in the fight for the WAC North title. Canajoharie will be a force in the South, with a senior-heavy lineup.
In the Colonial Council, Cohoes brings back Galuski, catcher Jessica Dearstyne and shortstop Stephanie LaDue.
Mechanicville will again be tough, with veterans Lindsey
McKeever, Nina Cervini, Kelly Murphy and Shannon McBride on board.
South Glens Falls, with a string of 11 straight sectional final appearances, will be a force in the Foothills Council and Class A, with Amanda Perry, Chelsea Carruthers and
Lauren Carruthers back from last year’s lineup in the state final.
Mineau and a lineup that lost just two starters will make Hoosic Valley hard to beat in the Wasaren League.