RCS has high hopes for diamond play

By John Bernhardt
After 30 seasons on the sidelines as a high school softball coach, you couldn’t blame Roxbury coach Jane Ware if the game was feeling a little old as she prepared for yet another season. Not a chance. Ware brings a love of the game and a youthful eagerness into the spring each year, and this March is no different.

Coaching for three decades in the Catskills, Ware has seen just about everything, including winter-like March weather. “It’s freezing out there,” laughed the Roxbury mentor. “That makes it hard to do much. We’ve already missed two days in the first two weeks because of snow.”

Always in the hunt
Eventually the snow disappears and when it does you can almost count on Roxbury battling for a Mountain Division title. Under Ware, the Rockets have won 20 plus Delaware League Mountain Division championships and with seven starters returning the defending Delaware League champions should be in the thick of the chase again this spring.

Ware needs to find a replacement for last year’s all-league pitching sensation Brittany Keator. Keator, a master of disrupting a batter’s timing, is the starting pitcher at Fulton Montgomery Community College this spring.

Back at home, Ware will combine the talents of a senior and a freshman to replace Keator. Kendal Sprague, the senior, played first base and was a backup pitcher last year. Sprague can bring the heat and is working hard on improving her command. Seirra Mattice compliments Sprague as a pitcher who throws with less fire but can hit spots. Mattice, a freshman, went undefeated on the mound over two seasons at the modified level.

The name game
Sprague, one of four girls sharing that name, hit cleanup on last year’s championship team. “Kendal swings from her socks every time, whether she hits the ball or is going down,” chuckled Ware. Sprague led the Rockets in extra-base hits last season.

Kendal is one of four Spragues on Ware’s team this spring. Samantha, another senior, is in her third varsity season and started in the outfield last year. Ware calls Samantha a good contact hitter with pop in her bat. The coach calls Shannon, Sprague number three, an excellent athlete, who is a quick base runner and very smart. Shannon Sprague was the third baseman last year.

The final Sprague is a freshman, Stacey. “Stacey wants to be a catcher and is working out behind the plate,” explained Ware. “She hits the ball like an upperclassmen.”

The youngest Sprague will have an excellent mentor in senior Christina Chirappa, returning to catch in her fourth season. Chirappa is quick and consistent behind the dish and keeps everything under control. A contact hitter, Chirappa can lay down a bunt and is a solid base runner.

Kennedy Faraci is back for a fourth season. Faraci played shortstop as a junior but is itching to get some time at first base this spring. “Kennedy is a very intelligent leadoff hitter who draws a lot of walks and is a great base runner. Kennedy can steal any base including home,” praises Ware.
Senior Bailey O’Donnell returns at second base and senior Marissa Greene is eager to get a chance to play after two injury-filled seasons. O’Donnell is a sure-handed infielder and Greene has a smooth swing and a nice stick at the plate.

Three juniors can be found on the roster. Kaelie VanLoan got a late start when her skiing season extended into the start of the softball preseason. VanLoan was one of five girls from the section who qualified to ski in the state’s logging a personal best. With a baseball glove on her hand, VanLoan will split time as an outfielder and utility infielder.

Gina Candelaira got a late start but shows good speed and likes the infield. The final junior, Liz Davis, returning from and ACL injury, flashes a nice glove and a good wrist snap at the plate.
Sophomore Allyce McIntosh started in the outfield as a freshman. Ware says McIntosh learned a great deal last year and was a consistent singles hitter in the batting order.

Cassidy Kadow, another sophomore, moves up from the modified squad. Kadow was a slugger on the younger Rockets’ edition and is acclimating to varsity play.

Ware expects Gilboa to contend for the Mountain Division crown. The Wildcats return their ace pitcher and played the Rockets to two tough contests last year. With the addition of girls from Roscoe, Downsville should make some noise, too.

Davenport fielded a team in an Oneonta summer league between school years and is Ware’s favorite in the Upper Division. Ware wouldn’t be surprised if Hunter-Tannersville stirs up some dust.
Roxbury is scheduled to open their season tomorrow at home in a non-league game against Margaretville. With weather reports and field condition making that game unlikely, Ware expects to open April 1 at home versus Hancock.