Like any new year, this softball season brings some changes. One that’s most notable is defending Division 1 state champion Milford’s move into the Hockomock League.
“I’m very excited about it,’’ said Milford coach Brian Macchi of the move to the Eastern Mass. conference. “In the sense of knowing the competitive nature of the schools. We’ve played [King Philip] and North Attleboro, and follow Franklin in the newspaper. The conference is stronger and a big challenge. We’re looking forward to building new rivalries.’’
The Scarlet Hawks have the experience to repeat as state champs. They graduated only two starters and welcome back five seniors, all of whom have been named captains.
Gatorade Player of the Year and Kentucky-commit Shannon Smith will be back in the circle, with fellow seniors Rachel Levine in center, Lauren Hanna at second, Lizzie Stallone in right, and cleanup hitter Caroline Fairbanks at third.
South powerhouse King Philip also has a big adjustment. Former Case coach Norm Beauchemin is now at the helm. Beauchemin said his transition to KP has been “very positive.’’ Senior pitcher Anna O’Neill will now have her time to shine with the departure of All-Scholastic Meg Rico. Tori Constantine returns at second and Breanna Shaffer will captain the outfield in center.
Bridgewater-Rayham will also be a threat in the South, with returning All-Scholastic junior shortstop Maddi Shaw, and sophomore Sara Dawson on the mound.
Division 2 North champ Dracut has moved up to the larger division in the Merrimack Valley Conference and is expected to be a force. The Middies return their entire infield as well as senior captain and starting pitcher Lauren Ramirez.
Abington, which took home the Division 2 South sectional crown last season, expects another strong year. Coach Ernie Ortega said his players have “set the bar very high.’’ Captain Stephanie Cornish is back starting at third, speedy shortstop MacKenzie Gillis will control the infield, and senior captain Alicia Reid will be in center.
“My first year coaching we made it to the South semifinals and that was our hors d’oeuvre,’’ said Ortega. “Last year we got a taste of the main course. This year we’d like to get a taste of the dessert.’’
Abington won’t be eating any dessert if Fairhaven can help it. With last year’s 3-1 South final loss to the Green Wave behind them, the Blue Devils are eager for a rematch. Senior hurler Courtney Girouard helped Fairhaven to a 20-3 mark last season. Coach Cathy Silva also expects big things at the plate from Girouard, who hit .485 last year.
Wakefield coach Rick Quattrocchi said he is expecting a solid year from the Warriors. As one of the youngest teams in the Middlesex League last season, the Warriors finished at .500. With third baseman Emma Kraus, shortstop Abby Dicredico, and second baseman Marissa Wardwell returning, Quattrocchi said the potential for his team is “mind-boggling.’’
Matignon will look to defend its Division 3 North crown, hoping to build off a 17-8 mark. After making back-to-back state final appearances, Case hopes to be in the running for the Division 3 crown for a third year.