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Softball preview capsules

Posted by Justin Rice  March 29, 2013 02:01 PM

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NORTH DIVISION

East Boston

Coach: Thomas Elliot (27th year)

Last year: 12-9

Strengths: As always, the Jets will bring it from the pitching circle. They might not strike out the side each time out, but they throw strikes, coach Thomas Elliot said.

Concerns: The Jets graduated their shortstop, second baseman and best outfielder from last year’s team.

Outlook: The Jets look to get back to the city championship this spring and avenge their loss to Latin Academy in the title game.

“I believe we are going to make it back to the city playoffs and the state tournament,” Elliot said. “The outlook is looking pretty good overall it’s just a matter of coach Elliot putting it all together with the kids.

“They are a great group of girls. So far they have been showing a positive attitude for the first two weeks of practice. I think their spirit and enthusiasm will carry us.”

Elliot also expects senior utility player Amanda Pomer to step up into the starting lineup this year.

Returning starters: Junior pitcher Stephanie Rizzo, sophomore pitcher Daniel Elliot, sophomore catcher Annamaria Dargenio, senior center fielder Vanessa Vernadie, junior outfielder Hannah Lunetta.

O’Bryant

Coach: Bridget Ryan (second year)

Last year: 11-8

Strengths: All but three players from last year’s squad are back for more this spring. The team will feature six returning seniors and has a strong junior class.

Concerns: Like most spring coaches, O’Bryant coach Bridget Ryan is worried that the lack of outdoor practice time has put them behind this spring.

Outlook: Minus three seniors from last year’s squad that made the city tournament for the second straight year, O’Bryant returns almost its entire squad from last year. Not only that, many of the returning players honed their skills in summer and fall leagues after last season.

“The kids have a lot of heart and desire and they work really hard,” Ryan said. “A lot of them play in the off-season, in fall, summer and spring leagues. It’s huge because their arms are warmed up; they’ve been hitting, I had a lot of kids that have been to the batting cages.”

Ryan said last year she got the job late in the year and this year she already has a jump on the season. In her first year, Ryan lost to Latin Academy in the first round of the city championships.

“I think we have a great chance of getting back to the city championships again this year and definitely making states,” Ryan said. “Last year, I was hired really late; I got hired and the next day schedules were due. I didn’t get a chance to look at who we played.

“This year we are playing Randolph, we are going to Martha’s Vineyard. Our JV team has almost 15 games. Last year they had five because of all the rain.”

Returning starters: Senior pitcher Kristen O’Brien, senior shortstop Valerie Nieves, senior first baseman Iryelis Lopez, sophomore center field Irgi Budo, senior left fielder Arlette Reyes, eighth grade second baseman Naya Shed, junior catcher Netta Harris.

Burke

Coach: Joanne Lee Nieves

Last year: 7-8

Strengths: The Bulldogs have a solid group of veteran seniors returning to the team this spring.

Concerns: As usual, pitching and outfielders will be an issue for Burke.

Outlook: Last year’s team just missed making the state tournament by one game, and this year's squad is looking to go .500.

“Maybe a little bit better this year,” coach Joanne Lee Nieves said. “Half of the team is going to be veterans and the other half will be ninth graders. At least six ninth graders. So it’s going to be partially a lot of teaching this year and getting ready for next year.”

She said she has five veterans who can help teach the freshman.

“That’s the good part about it,” she said. “I’m hoping that is going to be my strength, because the rest are all brand new.”

Returning starters: Senior catcher and pitcher Brenda Calderon, senior first baseman Merline Aherents, senior shortstop Whanellely Guerro, senior third baseman Rene Pierre, senior pitcher Madorah Sesay

Fenway

Coach: Joseph Cheung (seventh year)

Last year: 4-12

Strengths: Despite their lack of check marks in the W column last year, Fenway is one of the most enthusiastic and supportive teams in the city league. They also feature the Escolero twins (Lorena and Laura) who helped Fenway’s basketball team win a state championship this winter for the second straight year.

Concerns: The Panthers will play a young team with only one returning senior this spring and two returning juniors. But while they are learning the game for the first time, they are eager to learn, coach Joseph Cheung said.

Outlook: Cheung not only hopes that the success of the Fenway girls’ basketball team rubs off on his team, he also hopes that their star player, Tajanay Veiga-Lee, comes out for softball this spring.

“I think that the basketball team obviously sets the gold standard for our school athletics and we just want to continue that positive energy and do the best we can and really represent our school in a way we can be proud of,” Cheung said.

“I have [Veiga-Lee] in class. I teach the seniors. I spoke to her. I still haven’t seen paperwork. I don’t want to get my hopes up. … I assume she is pretty good. She told me ever since she was a freshman she used to play baseball.”

Veiga-Lee, who said during the basketball season that she wanted to pay softball for the first time this spring, is still waiting to hear back from colleges about basketball scholarships and is unsure if she will play for the softball team. She recently worked out for Providence College.

Returning starters: Sophomore second baseman Laura Escolero, sophomore shortstop Lauren Escolero, junior first baseman and outfield Ariana Martinez, sophomore pitcher Deja Casiano, sophomore left field third baseman Kayleen Gomez, sophomore outfielder Khadeejah Peete, senior pitcher Malaysia Thomas, sophomore right fielder Vanesa Guevara.

Madison Park

Coach: Gladys Perez-Byrd (23rd season)

Last year: 9-6

Strengths: While only four players return to the Cardinals program that lost in the first round of state tournament last spring, the team should remain a cohesive unit as many of the same players also play volleyball in the fall together for coach Gladys Perez-Byrd.

Concerns: After graduating seven seniors last year, Madison Park lost its best pitcher, catcher, shortstop and center fielder.

Outlook: Despite the team's lack of experience, Madison Park is always an athletic team with a shot at making the city tournament every year.

“That would be our ultimate goal as a team, that’s usually what we’re striving for,” said Perez-Byrd’s, whose team last made the city tournament two years ago. “I honestly have no idea [if we can get back]. The middle of my field is weak and that’s where you have to be strongest. I’m training everything up the middle from catcher to pitcher to center field to shortstop so it’s going to be a tough year for us.”

But many of the players play volleyball for Perez-Byrd as well.

“The kids know each other, they trust each other, they get along well with each other,” she said. “They are a super group of kids. They are willing to learn from each other. I’ve manged to instill in them always help each other out.”

Returning starters: Senior first base Krystal Edwards, senior utility Dayna Santana, junior second baseman Katira Andujar.

Snowden

Coach: June Robinson

Last year: 8-8

Strengths: Snowden looks to return five key players from last year’s squad that qualified for the state tournament.

Concerns: At the same time, Snowden will have a lot of new players this spring just learning the basics of the game.

Outlook: With a veteran coach, Snowden is always a team to look out for given that June Robinson is used to working with new batches of players.
“I think we’ll probably have a lot of new girls,” she said. “I usually carry 15 [players]. I’ll have five girls with experience.”

Returning starters: Junior utility Stephanie Morales, junior infielder Anna Ortiz, junior infielder Alexandria Deler, senior pitcher Cheyenne Sulfaro

SOUTH DIVISION

Latin Academy

Coach: Rocco Zizza (eighth year)

Last year: 12-10

Strengths: The defending city champions five seasons running return eight starting position players as well as three pitchers from last year’s squad. That includes senior pitcher Sydney McGrath, who is 32-0 when pitching against city teams.

Concerns: Latin Academy’s home field Playstead Park is still undergoing renovations so the Dragons will be displaced once again this spring, playing their home games at Malcolm X Field.

Outlook: As always, the Dragons are the favorites to win the city championships. But Zizza says their biggest challenge will be to maintain consistency against city league and non-league opponents as Latin Academy traditionally struggles against teams outside the city.

Last year, they lost in the second round of the state tournament to Marion.

“It’s par for us to play very good softball and not have a very impressive record because 14 of our games are outside the city,” Zizza said. “The thing is I tell the kids ‘Try hard and give a consistent effort and consistently improve.’ Those are the two most things we strive for and a lot of times our record does not dictate that.”

Returning starters: Senior pitcher Sydney McGrath, senior catcher Aurora O’Brien, senior first baseman Virginia McCaughey, sophomore second baseman sophomore Juliann Coleman, junior shortstop Rachel Kerrigan, junior third baseman Eliza Laden Mauro, junior left fielder Colby Cahill, junior center fielder Rachel Wells, freshman right field Anna Kopp, sophomore designated hitter Alexis Kenney.

Brighton

Varsity Coach: Victoria Barbato (first year)

Last year: 9-9

Strengths: The Bengals’ biggest strength is that the team draws upon three different schools: Brighton High, Another Course to College and the Mary Lyons School.

Concerns: At the same time, however, the team loses players from Boston Community Leadership Academy, which is now playing with New Mission in Hyde Park.

Outlook: Last year, Brighton beat South Boston 24-12 in the preliminary round of the Division 3 North state tournament before losing to Greater Lowell 23-0 in the first round. But many of the leaders on that team attend BCLA and will play for New Mission this year, meaning this year will be a rebuilding year for the Bengals.

“We will miss those players who have grown up in our program,” Brighton coach Victoria Barbato said via email. “This year, we will be focusing on training new players and educating them on the game. … We are looking at this year as a learning year and a year for our girls to form relationships with each other that will allow them to function as a solid whole.

“At the same time, we are excited to welcome more girls from the Mary Lyons school who have a lot of experience in the sport and have a lot to offer in terms of skill level. We also look forward to discovering new talent and having space to welcome new girls who have wanted to play in the past but have thought they couldn’t make it. We are very optimistic about our season!”

Returning starters: Senior second baseman Kristiana Torres, senior pitcher and left fielder Crystal Figueroa, senior first baseman and center fielder Christy Cruz.

Dorchester

Coach: Richard Moran (sixth year)

Last year: 9-6

Strengths: After being knocked out of the first round of the state tournament last year, Dorchester returns a number of starters from last spring, including two seniors.

Concerns: Unfortunately for the Bears, they did lose last year’s main pitcher, catcher and first baseman.

Outlook: Dorchester coach Rich Mora also coaches football at the school. This past fall, Dorchester came from nowhere to go undefeated during the regular season before losing in the Super Bowl. He hopes to repeat that magic on the softball diamond this spring.

The school’s boys’ basketball team also went to the city tournament this winter.

“I think it has [rubbed off],” he said. “This year especially, the football and the basketball and track teams did well. I’m a firm believer in that. I think it does [rub off]. I don’t think it’s me personally. I think establishing a winning tradition there is a carryover. I think it has. Whether it feeds into the girls I don’t know. So I hope so. I try to bring that.”

But it will be tough to do without last season’s pitcher, catcher and first baseman.

“We have to try to fill them, pitcher, catcher and first base, those are the big things with softball,” Moran said. “We’ll find somebody. Softball is like football in that it’s always an adventure.

“The biggest problem is kids don’t play a lot. Softball and baseball you have to have been playing since you were eight. Football, if you are tough and have a little heart you can find a spot for them. The girls have to play for a long time to be good. I’m teaching kids to catch, throw.”

Returning starters: Senior third baseman Jeanette Sepulveea, sophomore shortstop Jasmine Sudau.

Boston English

Coach: Jenelle Corey (first year)

Last year: 1-10

Strengths: Last year’s record is not an indication of the talent and heart among English’s returning players. The new players also have a lot of potential according to first-year coach Jenelle Corey.

Concerns: Learning how to win will be an issue for English.

Outlook: First-year softball coach Janelle Corey is also a first-year chemistry teacher at the school. She played high school softball in California but couldn’t continue in college because she injured her shoulder.

Her enthusiasm matches a English squad that lobbied the athletic department to have its team reinstated last year after the team was slated to be shut down for forfeiting too many games the previous year.

“I’m excited to see where we go with it this year,” Corey said. “I personally don’t know a lot of about the other teams since I’m new to the area but I’m excited to see what we can do this year compared to last year.

“My approach is just to work on fundamentals and expand from there. That’s our approach. We’ve been working really hard on fundamentals and now we’re going to see what happens this next week coming up in our first game; to see if we can translate that into a win on the field.”

This is also Corey’s first year as a head coach.

“I’m sure that there will be new challenges but I’m really excited about it,” she said. “I’m excited to meet all those challenges and the high bar of a head coach.”

Returning starters: Junior catcher Heidy Barriero, sophomore pitcher Nelsy Barriero, senior first baseman Olga Pena, junior shortstop Lorena Labour, junior second baseman Niurkys Arias, senior third baseman Zaidy Santiago

South Boston

Coach: Mary Linehan (sixth year)

Last year: 11-7

Strengths: Senior first baseman Sydney Cunningham returns to the lineup for the first time after getting injured in the fourth game of the season last year. Nevertheless, last year’s team found a lot of success during the regular season before losing to Brighton in the first round of states.

Concerns: South Boston only returns one player from last year’s team after graduating seven seniors.

Outlook: Despite losing most of her team to graduation, South Boston coach Mary Linehan remains hopeful.

“I’m hoping that we come around,” she said. “If we get into the playoffs that would be great. That’s what we’re going to try for but I don’t know how the other teams will be looking. I think everybody is in the same boat. A lot of people graduated quite a few players.

“Honestly I don’t know what my team is going to look like. I’m not sure but I’m hopeful I can pick up some of the kids who played baseball, maybe some volleyball players. I am definitely going to need a pitcher, catcher; the whole nine yards.”

Returning starters: Senior first baseman Sydney Cunningham.

West Roxbury

Coach: Grace Diggs (27th year)

Last year: 5-5

Strengths: West Roxbury returns six solid players from last year that look to make their mark this season. They all have played for two or three years.

Concerns: Coach Grace Diggs worries about competing against her players' other conflicts, including jobs, school work and social commitments.

Outlook: West Roxbury only graduated one or two seniors last year and if everyone returns to the diamond this spring they could be a team to contend with.

“That’s the if,” Diggs said. “Some of them have jobs and say they can’t make this game and boyfriends and all that stuff. I would say if everyone comes back who was there it would be [a good season.]”

Returning starters: Senior pitcher Marissa Serette, senior left fielder/shortstop Cathy Lopez, senior first baseman/catcher Selena Gonzalez, senior catcher/shortstop Nadia Ellis, senior second baseman Nekia Ellis, senior center fielder Mackala McPherson, and senior right fielder Kathy Chavez.

New Mission

Coach: Cory McCarthy (sixth year)

Last year: 7-9

Strengths: Power and pitching will be New Mission’s strengths this year.

Concerns: The Titans graduated their All-Star catcher from last season and coach Cory McCarthy also worries about his team’s mental toughness.

Outlook: After losing 10 seniors from last year’ squad, New Mission inherits 12 players from Boston Community Leadership Academy that played for a Brighton last year. That Brighton team beat South Boston in the state tournament.

In fact, those 12 players make up the majority of the team’s 18-girl roster.

“I expect a very strong year from us because we have two players that can play every position,” coach Cory McCarthy said of freshmen Katy Koftigen and Samantha Olivencia.

Alison Davey will be a strong anchor for the Titans behind the plate and the Titans have three good pitchers, including senior Nicole Sandell.

“She is blazing fast,” McCarthy said.

Returning starters: Junior pitcher Nichole Beatty.

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Several reporters, editors and correspondents contribute updates, news and features to the BPS Sports Blog:
  • Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
  • Ryan Butler -- A Rhode Island native and avid Boston sports fan, Butler played basketball, baseball and football throughout his time in Barrington Public Schools. Now currently in his middler year at Northeastern University, he joins Boston.com as a correspondent for the site's BPS coverage. Have a story idea? Contact him at butler.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on his Twitter @butler_globe.
Also expect updates from Boston.com High School sports editor Zuri Berry and the Globe staff.
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