Lady Devils, Rockets set to start softball campaigns
By Julia Green
First-year Margaretville head coach Bill Lonecke returns a strong roster from the 2008 Lady Blue Devils’ softball team, including five seniors and three 2008 Delaware League All-Star selections. Lonecke was an assistant with the Blue Devils last year and fills the vacancy left by Robyn Lukaszewski, who accepted a teaching position in the Rondout Valley school district.
“Only having 11 kids this year, they look really good,” Lonecke said. “I only have one girl who is new who came up from modified this year. The rest of them are returning players from last year, and last year we won the Upper Delaware League, and I think we have a real good chance to repeat it.”
Last season, the Blue Devils won the league but lost to Jefferson in the crossover game and fell to Deposit in sectional play. From that squad, Margaretville graduated four seniors, two of whom were regular starters.
“I’m hoping the returners can play at the level right from the beginning of the season that they played at the end of the season last year,” Lonecke said. “We had a really good sectional game against Deposit – we only lost that by two runs, and it was a real good ball game. We should go at least that far again this year.”
The Blue Devils will be led by senior pitcher Brittney Hull, who has started for Margaretville the past two years, and senior first baseman Brandi Balcom, as well as Second Team All-Star shortstop Erica Faulkner and starting catcher Caitlyn Roberts, who received honorable mention all-star recognition last year. Emily Kelly and Olivia Todd will round out the infield at second and third base, respectively.
Lonecke said he will be counting on the leadership of his upperclassmen.
“Of course, from my seniors, but especially Brandi Balcom – she’s my first baseman – and my shortstop, Erica Faulkner, who’s a junior. Erica’s going to have to step up and work with the seniors to bring this thing together.”
Margaretville will also complement its roster with players from Andes Central School, which is not fielding a team this season, including pitcher Karli Tait and catcher Rachel Andrews. Tait was a First Team Delaware League All-Star selection last year.
Pitching is one area in which Lonecke feels his team is the strongest, and much of that responsibility will be shouldered by Hull and Tait.
“I think pitching will be our strength this year,” he said. “We weren’t an overpowering offensive team last year and we held our own defensively, but pitching will definitely be our strength this year. Karli Tait is as good a pitcher as Brittney Hull is, and they’re probably two of the better pitchers in the league, so it really gives me a lot of depth with pitching. And Rachel Andrews is a great catcher and I can use her in different places on the field also.”
There will also be a healthy amount of experience in the outfield, as the entire Blue Devil outfield is comprised of returners from last year’s squad, including seniors Kaitlin Buerge and Julia Brophy.
A potential weakness for the Margaretville squad, Lonecke said, could be numbers.
“With a roster of 11, we can’t afford injuries,” he said. “We need to be real careful with that sort of stuff.”
He added that he is expecting some solid competition in terms of the league schedule, particularly from Jefferson, who clinched the crossover title from Margaretville last season.
“Jefferson is always tough, and just about every ball game is going to be. I’m not looking to blow anybody out, but I’m looking for some good, solid play, and if we get it we can take on anybody in the league.”
Lonecke will be assisted by Kyle Holden, who was a fellow assistant with the Blue Devils last year.
Margaretville will host the visiting Rockets of Roxbury Central School at 4:15 p.m. Thursday.
“Last year’s 3-13 season was a tough one,” said Roxbury Head Softball Coach Jane Ware, whose squad was plagued by inconsistency.
“We had three wins. We upset the number one team, Margaretville, we took No. 1 Jefferson to extra innings, and we played Hunter-Tannersville twice – they were No. 2 on Margaretville’s side – and took them to extra innings at our place and at their place. We contended with the best teams in the league and then we’d come up against a team similar to ours and some wires would cross and we just couldn’t get the game to go our way.”
Ware said she is looking for her squad to develop a competitive drive that could give those games a different outcome this year.
“We have a lot of skill and a lot of experience,” she said. “We just have to take those pieces and have the killer instinct and want to win the game. I think that’s the only piece that’s lacking, is that killer instinct.”
Roxbury returns some key players from last year’s squad, including catcher Rachel Meckes, who was a First Team Delaware League All-Star selection last year, and pitcher Heather Davie and senior second baseman Karly Bolger, both of whom received Second Team Delaware League All-Star recognition. Meckes had a .436 batting average last year and tallied 36 stolen bases and 21 runs for the Rockets.
On the whole, the Rockets’ infield boasts a wealth of experience, with Davie and Meckes pitching and catching, senior Danyelle Greene at first base, Bolger at second, senior Jessica Utsler at shortstop, and returning junior Briana George at third base.
Ware said that she is looking to complement Davie’s efforts on the mound with some new blood.
“I’m hoping we have a pitching staff,” she said. “Last year we had Heather, and when she got into trouble we didn’t have a lot to help out in that situation, but this year we do. We have two sophomores, Jenna Johnston and Tarah DiBenedetto, to help out a little bit in those situations.”
Davie, a junior, tallied 80 strikeouts last season, which she complemented with a .426 batting average.
Four seniors and three juniors return from last year’s squad while three of the four sophomores are newcomers.
“I’m just hoping the team will come together,” Ware said, adding that her expectations for the season are high. “We’ve gotten outside earlier, so that’s nice. I’m hoping that things come together and they have a really good season. They have the ability to be very competitive. If we can hit on all cylinders, we have that ability, that experience. They just have to find a way to win.”
Roxbury will play at Margaretville at 4:15 p.m. on Thursday; the Rockets’ home opener will be at 4:15 p.m. on Wednesday, April 8 against Jefferson.