Braintree coach Tom Grandy said it best: Softball is 98 percent pitching. And last season’s powerhouses, Ashland, Lexington, and Braintree, all graduated their star hurlers.
Former Clockers pitcher Nicole D’Argento finished her title-filled career with a perfect 62-0 record on the mound. Aces Kiki Saveriano of Lexington and Liz DiMascio of Braintree won’t be easy to replace either.
The fall of these three softball juggernauts, as well as this season’s division realignment, makes way for a new class of strong teams that have their own aces in the hole. This season it’s time for King Philip to shine.
The Warriors only graduated their second baseman and shortstop, but more importantly Hockomock League Most Valuable Player Maggie Quealy returns. The power pitcher was 15-1 on the mound last spring with a 0.94 ERA, tallying 97 strikeouts and only allowing 24 runs and 19 walks.
Although Quealy was last year’s star, King Philip coach Jim Leonard said they have two other pitchers who can provide some support on the mound.
‘‘Coming in we feel that we have some pitching depth,’’ Leonard said. ‘‘We have all three pitchers that are all confident pitchers, so as a coach that gives us a little bit of flexibility with what we can present other teams with.’’
Quealy, who also notched a .314 average and a .614 on-base percentage last year, will also be rejoined by league all-stars first baseman Cara Daly, center fielder Casey McCourt, and left fielder and leadoff hitter Sara Hedtler.
The Warriors are off to a solid start. Quealy opened up the season with a no hitter, defeating Stoughton, 9-0.
‘We’ve got a good degree of confidence in our pitching and our fielding, but we know it takes a lot of work to get through our entire season,’’ Leonard said.
John Blanding / Globe Staff
Dighton-Rehoboth, Concord-Carlisle, Acton-Boxboro, and Norwood aren’t far behind.
Dighton-Rehoboth returns All-Scholastic hurler Jennifer Lundstrom (1.14 ERA) as well as South Coast Conference All-Star Tori Rocha.
Although Concord-Carlisle graduated All-Scholastic shortstop Emily Beinecke, the Patriots return another in senior first baseman Georgia Guttadauro, who Concord-Carlisle coach Lisa McGloin calls one of the top five hitters in the state. Last season Guttadauro had a career-best .540 batting average.
Also in the lineup is Hannah Burling, a lefty slapper with speed who batted over .400 last year.
In the move to Division 1, the Patriots return junior pitcher Gayle Miner, who split time with Shannon Dalton last season. But they’re not concerned with the bump up from Division 2. Concord-Carlisle was able to defeat the Division 1 state champion Lexington squad last year.
‘‘We’ve been fortunate the past two or three years that the cohesive group that’s there has really built a strong sense of community among the team,’’ McGloin said. ‘‘And I’m looking for that to carry forward. I had a very dynamic team, and it did a lot of building together, and I think the core of that is still there.’’
The Colonials are loaded this season, returning 10 players from last year’s team, including All-Scholastic senior Lauren Murphy (.574 avg., 54 RBIs, 13 home runs), who is the jack-of-all-trades for Acton-Boxboro. Murphy not only serves as a pitcher, but an infielder and outfielder, as well.
‘‘She’s our clean-up hitter and will probably continue to hit clean-up for us,’’ said third year Acton-Boxboro coach Mary Matthews. ‘‘She’s so consistent. You can always expect her to perform. Everyone has an off-day, but she’s been pretty consistent overall.’’
Matthews said junior Lindsay Gibbs has transitioned smoothly into the catcher position after Jenny MacDowell graduated.
‘‘Lindsay’s really doing a great job and came in and she’s well prepared,’’ Matthews said. ‘‘Obviously there’s a lot of stuff to work on individually, but she was willing and looking forward to taking on this role and she’s definitely worked hard to do it.’’
The Mustangs had an impressive run in last year’s tournament, advancing all the way to the South Division 1 final. And Norwood’s league all-star young guns, juniors Ali Maloof and Lauren Duggan, are back.
Along with experience on the mound, Norwood boasts a tremendous amount of flexibility in its senior squad.
‘‘Lauren Duggan is a catcher as well, so she will catch Maloof,’’ said Norwood first-year coach Carol Savino. ‘‘She’s a very talented lady. They’re multi-positional. They’re both very good hitters, so you want them in your lineup.’’
Danvers steps down to Division 2 this season, losing its all-star pitcher and catcher, while returning seven starters.
Although the pitching for this season is still being worked out, sophomore Samantha Dibella has secured her spot as the new Falcons catcher.
Danvers all-stars Hannah Demirdogen and Joanna Zecha are back this year, as well as junior captain first baseman Alicia Dean, who will probably hit in the No. 4 spot.
“I think we have fabulous leadership,” said Danvers coach Tara Petrocelli. “Some coaches worry about Xs and Os and stealing and hitting, and I think what a lot of people forget is team chemistry and leadership, which are key to a good softball team.”
Tewksbury emerges as one of the strongest teams in division 2, and the Redmen will focus this season around senior pitcher Lauren DiCredico, who won 16 games last year. But when DiCredico went down right before the state tournament with a back injury, Katelynn Moore took her place.
‘‘When Lauren got hurt, she stepped right in last year and clinched the league title for us, so it was a great surprise,’’ said Tewksbury coach Leo DiRocco.
Returning are Merrimack Valley All-Conference players Ally Frazier and Danielle DePierro. DiRocco calls Frazier an offensive catalyst, but adds that right fielder Ali Greene is the fastest player on the team.
‘‘She’s such a good hitter,’’ DiRocco said of Greene. ‘‘She bats third in our lineup, but she is a very speedy outfielder. Our defensive outfield is the fastest we’ve ever had at Tewksbury High School. They can flat out get every ball.’’
Division 3 state champion St. Mary’s and Cohasset should both go far come tournament time once again. The Spartans return All-Scholastic Player of the Year catcher Erin McAndrews (.563 avg., 40 RBIs) and the Skippers return senior pitcher Kelly Naegelin (19-3, 0.89 ERA).
Several reporters and editors contribute updates, news and analysis to the High School Sports Blog.
- Bob Holmes: A Reading resident (Go Rockets!) and Boston College graduate, Holmes is the Boston Globe High School Sports Editor. We remind you now that his weekly picks are often made in jest so everyone just calm down when he picks against Everett for 11 straight weeks. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeHolmes.
- Craig Larson: A native of West Springfield (Leo Durocher anyone? Tim Daggett?) and Curry College graduate (a proud Colonel!), Larson is the sports editor for the Globe's regional sections: South, West and North, as well as a frequent contributor on the college beat. Abington to Xaverian: it all starts with the schools. Have a compelling story idea? Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeLars.
- Zuri Berry: Berry attended the same high school as sports legends O.J. Simpson and Joe DiMaggio. (Guess which one is his hero.) He's a South Boston resident (formerly of Eastie) and the editor of the High School Sports blog as well as the go-to-guy for everything high school sports on Boston.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GlobeSchools for all of the latest updates.
Then there are our fall correspondents:
- Anthony Gulizia | @gulizia_a | Div. 1 football
- Eric Russo | @erusso22 | Div. 2 football
- Stephen Sellner | @stephen_sellner | Div. 3 football
- Andrew MacDougall | @Andy_MacDougall | Div. 4 football
- Greg Joyce | @GJoyce9 | Div. 5 football
- Lorenzo Recupero | @LorenzoRecupero | Div. 6 football
- Liz Torres | @etorres446 | Girls volleyball
To reach the high school sports department, e-mail email@example.com.