Each year, a different challenger seeks to knock Shenendehowa from its top spot in the Class AA hierarchy.
Still, the Plainsmen have put together a string of six consecutive sectional softball championships. Extending the run won’t be easy.
“There are some good teams in the Suburban Council,” said Shenendehowa coach Dan D’Amboise, whose teams have beaten SC rival Colonie in three of the last four Class AA championship games. “Most every team seems to have good pitching, and I think that’s really going to be the case this year. I think there are going to be a lot of low-scoring games because of good pitching and solid defense.”
D’Amboise isn’t exaggerating.
His roster includes senior Amanda Ferro, whose transition from outfield to the pitching circle last spring was so smooth that the Suburban Council coaches named her the league’s Most Valuable Player.
Colonie has a trio of pitchers back in Michelle Probst, Jami Cordell and Erika Platt. Niskayuna returns its talented underclassman duo of Lauren Giglio and Rachel Annello. Allyson Onyen of Saratoga Springs was a first-team SC all-star a season ago, and the Blue Streaks also can throw a healthy Krista Robarge.
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake got to the Class A final last year, despite losing pitcher Emily Ostrom, as Katie Filak took over in the circle and turned in a strong season.
D’Amboise’s biggest task is to replace his infield, which also produced a lot of the team’s offense.
He has moved some former outfielders closer to the action, and shifted Emily Wagner from third base to shortstop.
Lexi Williams goes from right field to third base, Melanie Scuderi will be at third and Alyssa Tattersall will also get some playing time at third base.
“I was a little apprehensive about our infield defense, but I think we’re going to be good there,” said D’Amboise.
But he knows Ferro will be his team’s most important player.
“Amanda is the core of the team, no doubt,” he said. “She’s looked real strong in the preseason.”
While Colonie has pitching, the Raiders must also replace some productive bats.
“Having the three pitchers back is a good problem,” said Colonie coach Chris Robilotti. “But we lost a lot of veteran players that were not only good players, but they knew how to win.”
Robilotti is looking for players like Natalie Triano and Allison Mullen to become this season’s leaders.
Saratoga brings back all but one starter from 2008.
“We’ve got a lot of players who got a lot of experience last year,” said Blue Streaks coach Jeff Harrington. “And getting Krista back healthy is a bonus.”
Leading the veterans is Rutgers-bound Kaci Madden, who will catch and play some at shortstop.
“She’s a great player,” said Harrington.
Kellie Bean, Rebecca Mangona and Alexandra Parisi are among the other returning Blue Streaks.
“The league is so pitching-dominant,” said Harrington. “There are going to be a lot of 2-1, 1-0 games this year.”
Dawn Dagostino takes over a Niskayuna team that, despite having only one senior, shows a lot of varsity experience.
“We’ve only got 11 on the varsity, because we’re going with four teams [throughout the program] this year,” said Dagostino. “Seven are sophomores. Even though we’re young, they have varsity experience.”
Giglio and Annello give the Silver Warriors a solid 1-2 punch in the circle. Third baseman Molly O’Donnell, the team’s only senior, holds down the left side of the infield with younger sister Emily. Kiersten Gray is back behind the plate, and Meghan Price — a 2008 all-league pick — will hit leadoff.
“We’ve got a lot of power hitters and some speed,” said Dagostino. “We’re excited about the season.”
Burnt Hills returns one of the best hitters in the league in catcher Leanne Merchant, as the Spartans try to get back to the Class A championship game.
Outfielder Caitlyn Raina, Laryssa Vitti and Arden Sack also return.
First-year Troy High coach Casey Halloran will have the Jones girls, Shannon and Emily, at her disposal as the Flying Horses look for another trip to the Class AA final four.
Schenectady also has a new coach, with Tom Isabella taking over the Patriots’ program.
Foothills Council powers South Glens Falls (state Class A finalist) and Queensbury were both hit hard by graduation, though the Spartans still have catcher Caitlin Schultze, who has already signed to play at Auburn University.
Mechanicville claimed Section II’s lone state championshhip last year. The Class C winner’s plaque was the fifth such award to go in the Red Raiders’ trophy case this decade.
Despite losing four of the 10 starters who took the field in the state championship game, the Red Raiders should be a force again this year.
“We’re loaded with speed,” said Mechancville coach Don Arceneaux, whose team will be competing at Class B in the postseason. “We might not have as much pop in our bats as last year, but we’ll be able to do a lot with our speed.”
Among the returners are sophomore pitcher Anna Arceneaux, infielder Alyssa Russell, first baseman Joelle DiDomenico and center fielders Abby Maiello, all of whom started in the state final. The addition of a healthy Shannon McBride, who missed a good chunk of the 2008 season, and Shenendehowa transfer Kelsey Hines gives Mechanicville speed, defense, a little pop and two front-line pitchers.
Anna Arceneaux, who threw a four-hitter and went 3-for-4 with three RBI in the 11-1 state final win over Section V’s Bolivar-Richburg, will share the pitching duties with McBride.
“They’re both established pitchers,” said Arceneaux.
The competition in the Colonial Council should come from a pair of familiar opponets.
Cohoes is coming off an appearance in the state Class B semifinals, and Lansingburgh won the Colonial Council title, edging both the Red Raiders and Tigers last season.
“We went 15-1 in the league, and didn’t have a lot of room to spare,” said Lansingburgh coach John Cipperly, who returns league MVP Erin Glikes in the pitching circle, as well as catcher Megan Volz, shortstop Sarah Cipperly and first baseman Melissa Bell. “Our challenge this year is to do well defensively while we wait for the younger kids to develop on offense.”
Cohoes lost the bulk of its team. Seeking some stability, Tigers coach Frank Ryan has moved Mary Kellogg from the outfield to the pitching circle.
“We’re going to be young,” said Ryan. “But we haven’t cut back on our schedule. We’re playing some Suburban teams in our non-leaguers again this year. The girls like playing against the bigger schools, and they know how much it helped last year.”
Cobleskill-Richmondville junior pitcher Sarah Harrison, Schalmont infielders Ashley Miley and Jeana Longo and Holy Names pitcher Lauren Walsh are among the other talented returning players in the Colonial Council.
Duanesburg rolled to its seventh consecutive Western Athletic Conference title last season, finishing 16-1. The Eagles avenged that loss by beating Canajoharie in the Class C final before falling to Mechanicville in the CC/C playoff, all with just two seniors on the roster.
“We lost our pitcher [Erika Hillenbrand], but we have everyone else back,” said Eagles coach John Conway, whose teams have won 11 straight league titles, including the final four of the defunct Schoharie County League.
Senior Colby Hochmuth takes over as the No. 1 pitcher, with Alyssa Sanders (shortstop), Danee Fields (catcher), cleanup hitter Melissa Kuhl and Beth Smith other key seniors back.
“We’ve got a good lineup, and a lot of seniors,” said Conway. “I think we should be able to compete.”
Canajoharie will look to challenge the Eagles again in the WAC South, with catcher Sarah Blood, outfielder Caitlyn Mosher, Emilie Liddle and Karabeth Burns leading a group of six players who started in the “C” final. Sophomore Brittany Buccolo inherits the pitching spot.
Galway, Fonda-Fultonville and Fort Plain are all trying to catch Duanesburg.
Galway has a host of returning players, led by Heather Sickler and Michelle Cruden.
Fonda-Fultonville has a quality starting pitcher in Amanda Baker, with Kalya Ladd, Brittany Hinkle and Alyassa Nowak on hand for support.
Sarah Maiello and Katie Heimer will be co-coaches at Fort Plain, replacing longtime coach Don Stockwell. Ashley Smith and Kelsy Logan will be key players.
Schoharie also has a top pitcher back in Adrienna Diamond, while Saratoga Catholic is retooling after a heavy graduation hit, though Jen Diggins is one of the league’s top hitters.
Chelsea Paul of Northville and Mayfield’s Cassie Christman return to help their respective teams.
In the Wasaren League, former Schuylerville coach Sam Fitzgerald takes over at Tamarac, while Hoosic Valley has to replace standout pitcher Jen Mineau. Hoosick Falls and Greenwich got to the Class CC semis last year, and Schuylerville fell to Hoosic Valley in the Class B semis.
Freshman Rachel Quackenbush of Hoosick Falls and junior Mikayla Wells are two of the top returning pitchers.
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Categories: High School Sports