By Jim Sullivan
---- — They came in from the outfield to take center stage.
After losing both starting pitchers, Molly Rowe and Beth Castantini, to graduation last year, the Newburyport softball team was in need of some arms. Lucky for second-year coach Lori Solazzo, all she had to do was look left and right.
Patrolling right field last year was current junior Victoria Allman, and out in left was current sophomore Carley Siemasko. Both girls are preparing to take on a bit more pressure this season as they take the mound for the Clippers.
“It definitely is a lot of pressure,” Allman said. “But you just have to take it one game at a time.”
Both right-handers have been playing together for a while. Allman has been playing AAU softball since seventh grade and spends a lot of her off-season time working on her pitching.
“I’m not the speediest of pitchers,” Allman said. “But what people recognized is that I can place the ball. I’m a finesse pitcher. And it makes me happy that I am able to do that.”
“She works all year, around the clock at it,” Solazzo said of Allman. “You can’t ask for more than that. Pretty much, if you’re going to be a pitcher, you’ve got to be willing to put the time in outside of the season as much as during the season. And Victoria does that the most of everybody on our team.”
Siemasko is a three-sport athlete (field hockey, basketball and softball), and got serious about softball in eighth grade. She hopes to fall back on some of the experience in her other sports while on the mound.
“I’m used to tuning everything out for basketball,” said Siemasko. “You have to tune it out. But the cheering, you can’t really hear it and it doesn’t affect you was much in the field. But it will start to get to you on the mound. So I’m going to try to tune it out, and hopefully it works.”
Both Clippers are terrors at the plate. Siemasko hit .500 last season while Allman batted .350. Both served as the designated hitter when they weren’t in the field. Newburyport did very well in 2012, making it all the way to the Division 3 North semifinals.
“I know that it’s going to probably be a little bit difficult knowing that we did lose our last game,” said Siemasko. “But you can’t dwell on that. Each season is new, and every year you get a new chance. So hopefully this year, we can do as well or even better.”
Allman says that she is ready to turn the page.
“We have a ton of new players coming up,” said Allman. “We have to train them all and work as a team to get back there.”
Both players agree that team chemistry will be key to taking them far this season.
“I think as a team we’re very close,” says Siemasko. “Most of us were together last year. We know how each other plays and what strengths people have. It’s good that we can build off each other that way too.”
And as the Clippers prep for their first game of the year against North Andover Wednesday, both pitchers know their coach’s expectations are high.
“I expect a lot,” Solazzo said. “I’m expecting that they’re going to get us in the game. If it means just getting the ball over the plate, and getting the ball in play, and letting our defense pick them up, then that’s great. But as they get more comfortable and stronger, I think that is where they are headed.”