The 2015 Southington softball team completed its quest for a three-peat thanks in large part to a stellar senior class that shouldered the pressure of perfection.
Behind the play of nine seniors, highlighted by program cornerstones Kendra Friedt, Kaitlin Paterson, Sydney Ferrante and Lauren Zazzaro as well as the state finals hero Bella Russo, the Blue Knights won their third straight Class LL crown and, for the second year in a row, went a spotless 24-0 season.
Paterson was the Class LL MVP and Russo plated the walk-off run in Southington’s 5-4 championship win over Cheshire.
The 2016 squad enters the season riding a 70-game winning streak. If the Lady Knights are going to keep the wins pouring in, they will have to do it with several new faces.
“Honestly, my only real expectation is to maintain the tradition and the culture of Southington softball,” third-year coach Davina Hernandez said. “I know there isn’t always going to be a state championship, but I think my main goal is to really keep that bar that high.
“I know there is a lot of pressure because we are approaching a record and we are a younger team. We haven’t thought about that has a team. We haven’t paid too much attention to it. We are doing the best with our team. We just to get better every day.”
Southington seems to own virtually every Connecticut high school softball record in the history book, yet not the one on the horizon. Seymour won 78 consecutive games from 2005 to 2007. Weather permitting, the Lady Knights could surpass that mark on April 25 at home against state power Fitch in a must-see nonconference clash, especially if the Knights are able to reel off eight wins prior to that game.
“This is a younger team and that’s a lot of pressure for them,” Hernandez said. “That’s not something we talk about or pay attention to.”
The Knights will lean heavily on senior co-captain Natalie Wadolowski. The third baseman has started every game the last three seasons, each of which has concluded with her holding up a championship trophy. She will play at Boston College next year.
Maighread Scafariello returns as the Blue Knights’ backstop. The junior was a valuable addition to the team last year after a freshman season at Sacred Heart Academy.
Scafariello will play a big role in helping senior Brenna Sarantides as she takes the starting pitching reins from Friedt. Freidt, now a freshman at Boston College, finished her two years as Southington’s starting pitcher undefeated.
“Brenna was 7-0 last year with a bunch of shutouts and is very strong pitcher,” Hernandez said. “Like last year, I want multiple people contributing just in case we have an injury. I’m hoping we have multiple people contributing in all positions.”
That means Hernandez also wants depth in the circle. In addition to Sarantides, junior Delaney Picard and sophomore Kara Zazzaro are in the mix for innings.
“Delaney, Kara and Brenna all are different pitchers,” Hernandez said. “The plan is to have more of a pitching staff this year than in the past.”
Senior outfielder Emily Mankus along with juniors Katie Semmel and junior Michelle Woodruff, both outfielders and second basemen, are among the key returners.
Sophomore Janette Wadolowski, injured a year ago, will make her high school softball debut this season and is vying for the starting shortstop gig.
“Last year, we had great depth,” Hernandez said. “We are young this year. We are still very strong group of girls that have to get used to playing together. We have had a very strong freshman class come in and we are hoping to get them varsity experience.”
The Panthers are hurt by low numbers again. Longtime coach Trish Wodatch has 10 varsity players at her disposal when the team begins its 2016 campaign on Monday at Lyman Hall.
The good news is Platt returns the majority of its starters, including sophomore hurler Machaila Arjavich. She made every start as a freshman last spring, which saw the Panthers make the Class L tournament and earn a memorable win over rival Maloney in the first round.
Arjavich will have the comfort of having senior Ashley Gallo returning behind the plate.
Platt also returns two leaders in the outfield with Destiny West in left and Jenixza Febles in center. Both will be among the anchors in the lineup.
“When West connects, the ball goes,” Wodatch said. “Machaila is strong. We have Ashley, who batted .440 last year. We need people to get on base and we need to get them home. Also, I need the younger players hitters to grow up a little faster and make some key contributions. With the amount of seniors we have, I hope we will have some leaders out there.”
Platt has added a talented freshman this season with Daniela Fuentes-Mercado slotting in at shortstop. She carries a potent bat and will fill in for graduated All-Conference shortstop Emily Stratton.
Wodatch is hoping for another tournament berth.
“If we get eight wins, I will be excited,” Wodatch said. “A big key will be Machaila. I like her as a pitcher. She has improved her mechanics from last year and has more speed on her ball. She looks more comfortable on the mound and she will keep us in some games this year.”
For the second year in a row, with construction ongoing at Platt, the Panthers will play most, if not all of their games at neighboring Lincoln Middle School.
Wodatch learned the news this week and was disappointed. She said she is hoping a temporary fence could be put in at the Lincoln field for Platt home games.
The Spartans graduated nine seniors from last year’s squad and plenty of new faces will be seen patrolling the Dunn Athletic Complex this season, especially in the outfield. Because of injuries and graduation, Maloney coach Scott Aresco said his outfield rotation is still in flux just days before the start of the season.
One of the certainties for Maloney is in the circle. Senior pitcher Paige Mickens-Uliase will start for the Spartans for the third season in a row.
“She will be depended on more,” Aresco said. “Megan (Guest) and Saimara (Cantres) were great in outfield for her last year and we will be younger in the outfield this year. We will have six new players in the field and many of them didn’t play much last year.
“Naturally, those first year players won’t be as good as three-year starters. Paige is going to have to step up her game for us to be successful. I hate to say it’s a rebuilding year. It is a little bit. But in a way, it’s not because we have a very good pitcher coming back.”
Sophomore Abby Chichester and seniors Brenna Chichester and Jazline Gonzalez were all expected to be in the mix for outfield spots, but each has been slowed by injury. That will create a trial by fire heading into the season. Junior Emily Scarfo will be vying for one of those outfield spots along with a group of underclassmen.
The infield is a little more set with All-State shortstop Miaziah Ortiz moving behind the plate. Senior Riley Maloney will handle second base and her younger sister, sophomore Regan Maloney, will take over at shortstop.
Aresco said Regan Maloney is reminding him of Spartan great and All-American Ariele Virgulto at shortstop.
“Both sisters are good, very quick, aggressive and smooth,” Aresco said.
Ortiz will be the Spartans most potent bat.
“She swings the bat well,” Aresco said.
“She is also aggressive on the bases and at the plate and will bat third in our order. When we play in fields without fences she will hit first because the ball just goes and goes off of her bat.
Maloney’s schedule will prove a little more challenging this spring. The Spartans drop Bulkeley, and most certainly two victories, from their schedule and replace them with two games with Rocky Hill.
“I would love to win another 15 games and go further in the tournament,” Aresco said. “We are capable if we work very hard. It’s not going to be easy.”
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