Returning softball players make coaches optimistic
By Julia Green
For the first time in two years, Andes Central School will have a softball team. Head Coach Tamara Snyder is welcoming back a core of seniors who last played for her when they were freshmen.
Leading the Mountaineers this season will be seniors Karli Tait and Rachel Andrews, who spent the past two seasons with the Margaretville softball team. Tait, a pitcher, was an All-Delaware League selection last season.
“Originally I think Karli and Rachel really wanted to play softball in Andes their senior year, and they signed up and now we have enough for next year as well,” Snyder said.
Jenna Weaver is the third senior on the roster, and was one of the players Snyder had as a freshman.
“It’s interesting,” Snyder said. “We’re going over basics. It’s kind of a good thing because you can teach them all the right things. They’re doing really well – I just have to keep remembering that they’re young and inexperienced.”
Rounding out the Andes roster are: juniors Gina Tait and Kayla Weaver; sophomores Desirae Coss, Marissa Heannings and Ashley Terry; freshmen Kelsey Little and Jade Litaker; and eighth-graders Shianne Coss, Mariah Ruff and Rayna Tuch.
“It’s fun because they soak up a lot of it,” Snyder said. “I have a junior who has never played softball before, but she’s a phenomenal athlete.”
With Tait in the pitcher’s circle again this year, Snyder will also be counting on Andrews’ experience as a cornerstone of the Andes infield at first base. Ruff will be behind the plate catching, while Snyder anticipates that Weaver will start at shortstop.
“Gina Tait is capable of playing anywhere, and Ashley Terry is definitely going to be a hitter to be reckoned with,” she said. “Those are the girls I know for sure what I have planned for. I’m really excited; we have the core players.”
The Andes girls open the season with a home game against Franklin on Thursday, and will travel to play Franklin again on Monday. The first league game for the Mountaineers will be against the host Blue Devils of Margaretville on Tuesday.
“All I can say is that I’m excited to see what these young kids can do,” she said. “I’m trying to teach the basics, which is hard to do in a short amount of time, but they’re a lot of fun and they soak up a lot of stuff.”
Snyder said she is counting on the strengths of her infield players to set the tone for the Mountaineers.
“Pitching is going to be a strength, catching is going to be a strength, and I’m really counting on Rachel to pull off first base, which I think she’ll be good at,” she said. “And I think some of them are going to do very well hitting, because a lot of them come in on their own time and get in the cage.”
The outfield, however, is a facet of the Mountaineers’ game that is very much up in the air; however, Snyder said they have been working on all the basic skills vital to outfield play, such as two-handed catching.
“Hopefully we’ll have a good time,” she added. “I really try at practice to get them to have a good time. That’s the most important thing – to have a good time and educate them.”
Margaretville Blue Devils
Despite having lost a core chunk of his infield, Margaretville Head Coach Bill Lonecke is confident about his team’s chances this season. In addition to graduating catcher Caitlyn Roberts, first baseman Brandi Balcom, center fielder Kaitlin Buerge, third baseman Brittney Hull and outfielder Julia Brophy, the Blue Devils lost starting pitcher Karli Tait and Rachel Andrews, who are playing for Andes this season.
The Blue Devils, however, intend to defend their back-to-back Upper Delaware division titles.
Margaretville will return two key infield players in second baseman Emily Kelly and shortstop Erica Faulkner, and will be looking to the only other returner, junior Olivia Todd, to handle first base.
“Pitching will be split mostly between [sophomores] Danielle Hull and Harley Shamro, and occasionally Amy Filupeit, who’s a really good left-hander,” Lonecke said.
When not in the pitcher’s circle, Filupeit will be behind the plate, sharing catcher’s duties with sophomore Jessica Barringer, who previously played at Hancock.
“Pitching and catching will be a strength,” Lonecke said. “The two girls who are going to be my primary pitchers are really good, really accurate, and between Amy and Jessica catching, both of them have shotguns for arms, so we’ll be able to build a good team around my pitchers and catchers. Our infield will be strong.”
Lonecke also has three players who have risen from the modified ranks – Sarah Fairbairn, Sara Hagakore, and Shelby Todd – and two players who are new to the sport in Hope Brennan and Patience Misner.
“I think they’ll both work out really well for me, and by the time they’re seniors they’ll be really good softball players,” he said.
Rounding out the roster are junior Chelsea Slavin, who has playing experience, and senior Christine Kelly, who is back after a few years’ hiatus.
Lonecke said he will be counting on the experience of his infield to set the tone this year for the Blue Devils.
“Erica’s an anchor at shortstop and Emily’s an experienced second baseman,” he said. “At fielding and pitching and catching we’re going to do well.”
Among the areas in which he anticipates needing to improve, however, are the outfield and the offense.
“We’re working on putting together a good outfield, and you can’t win ball games unless you hit, so we’re going to work on a lot of offense and base running,” he said. “Half the team is young, so just teaching them at a varsity level offense, base running and that sort of thing.”
If South Kortright’s field is ready, the Blue Devils may be able to open the season against the Rams today or tomorrow; otherwise, the first game for Margaretville will be next week. Lonecke said he is expecting strong challenges from Downsville and from a nonleague match-up with Onteora, but said that he expects his team to do well against the entire league.
“With a young team like this, every game is going to be a challenge,” he said. “It’s not going to be easy being this half of the league’s champions again, but we’re going to take it one game at a time, and I told the girls we’re going to take it one inning, one out at a time, and by the end of the season we should have our third one.”
Coming off a highly successful season last year, in which they won their first league title since 2004 and advanced to the quarterfinals of the sectional tournament, the Roxbury Rockets are looking to keep the ball rolling, despite having lost four seniors from last year’s roster.
The Rockets will once again be looking to senior pitcher Heather Davie, who had an impressive win record last year and pitched a no-hitter against Hunter-Tannersville in May.
“My pitching staff is strong,” said Roxbury Head Coach Jane Ware. “I have Heather back and then I have Brittany Keator, she was on the modified team last year and didn’t get a hit the entire time she pitched, so my pitching staff is nice.”
Senior catcher Rachel Meckes will be another cornerstone of the Roxbury infield, while Ware hopes that junior Tarah DiBenedetto, who is just returning from injury, will ultimately be starting at first base. Senior Brianna George alternated between outfield and third base last year, which Ware anticipates may also be the case this year.
“Tarah’s just getting back, so I was hoping for her to start on first base but she had to have some surgery done,” Ware said, “so I’m just hoping that she gets back to form quickly. She’ll probably start out in the outfield so she doesn’t get contact.”
In addition to the returning upperclassmen, junior Paulina Cowan also returns, and Nevada Schuman is also a junior. The Rockets’ roster is rounded out by sophomores Alexi Boice, Angela Perazone and Sydney Peters, and freshman Kennedy Faraci.
Despite the presence of veteran players at key positions, Ware is also aware of the youth of her team.
“My whole team’s new,” she said. “I lost six starters, technically. I’m hoping that the young kids develop.”
In the batter’s box, Davie will also be a force, while Ware is also anticipating strong hitting from Meckes and DiBenedetto. She is also working on trying to find the right mix of infielders between the returning talent and the newcomers.
The Rockets will open against Jefferson, one of the stronger teams in the Delaware League, next Tuesday on the road, and will follow that with a nonleague home opener against the visiting Warriors of Windham on Friday.
“I think our side’s the strongest side of the league again, hands down,” she said. “I think the competitive teams are going to be Jefferson, Downsville, and hopefully us, if we can develop quick enough. And Andes has Karli Tait, and she’s got two or three years of pitching experience under her belt, so she’s going to keep them in a lot of games.”