By Tim Lima
---- — With softball season gearing up in the Greater Newburyport area, both the Newburyport and Amesbury softball teams are looking to sustain their success from last season and make a return trip to the postseason. Here’s a look at both teams and what fans can expect from each squad this year.
The Clippers softball team fell in their season opener yesterday to Marblehead 8-1, though the season’s goal remains unwavering: a deep tournament run.
Though the season has officially begun, the weather had a strong impact on what was already a short offseason. While being restricted in terms of outside work, the Clippers were also limited to just one scrimmage to prepare.
While Mother Nature has done no favors for Newburyport, neither has the injury bug. With just five returning starters from last year, one is already sidelined due to injury. Because of this, head coach Lori Solazzo’s team is relying heavily upon talent brought by its newcomers.
“Our program numbers are low this year and we’re already dealing with injuries,” Solazzo said.
Senior captain Victoria Allman and junior captain Carley Siemasko will be expected to carry much of the load this year, along with fellow veterans Meghan Stanton, Ashley Hodge, Lauren Singer, Shelby O’Brien and Molly Kelley.
While the season is just hours old, one can’t help but look to what may lie ahead for Newburyport. With just two seniors on this year’s team, one of which that is familiar with the program, and one freshman newcomer, the Clippers are built almost exclusively from its junior class. Of the 13 girls on the team, 10 are juniors.
The good news about that fact for this year is that the newcomers to Port’s program are mainly upperclassmen; a group comprised of a senior, four juniors and a freshman. Amy Sullivan is the senior, while Nicole Freeman, Shianne Sneider, Lizzie Wright and Morgan Johnston make up the junior class. Jade Carpenter is the lone freshman on the team.
“We have a group of girls that work well together,” Solazzo said. “We made it to the second round of the state tournament last year, so our goal is to get at least that far this year.”
While next year’s senior depth may raise some eyebrows this year, Port will aim to get back to its winning ways and make 2014 special this afternoon at Masconomet at 3:45 p.m.
The Indians are also a team that has grown accustomed to winning and qualifying for the postseason. While this year’s inexperienced team may create early offensive woes, its strengths should propel it toward another winning season.
Its season set to set sail this afternoon at Georgetown at 3:45 p.m., Amesbury looks to get off to a strong start in what could be a difficult opening week. The Indians’ first three games will come on the road against Georgetown, Lynnfield and Newburyport, while the home-opener won’t be until April 16 against Rockport.
“The team is working hard and concentrating on defense,” said Amesbury head coach Chris Perry. “There are many strong teams in the league, so we will be taking it one game at a time. We are looking for daily improvement.”
With many new players, steady improvement will be a necessity for success as the spring progresses. New to the club this season are Megan Aponas, Zoe Fitzgerald, Samantha Stone, Megan Reid, Maddie Napoli, Ally Wilson and Skyla Lynch, and they will look to follow in the footsteps of Amesbury’s more experienced players.
The Indians’ returning starters consist of senior catcher Amanda Schell, senior outfielder Alexis Boswell, senior pitcher Rachel Cyr, senior outfielder Lucy Sholz, third baseman Autumn Kligerman and second baseman Lauren Fedorchak.
Though largely inexperienced at the varsity level, Amesbury is pleased with the leadership its seniors have already shown in a young season. In fact, Perry would list the leadership exhibited by Schell, Boswell, Cyr and Sholz as his team’s strength heading forward.
While it will take a lot to match last year’s 18-2 season that concluded in the semifinals of the state tournament with an 8-2 loss to the championship Burlington team, it’s a good benchmark to shoot for.
And while Perry believes the league has grown more competitive in the off-season, his Indians will have an 11-1 victory over Newburyport in last year’s quarterfinals round to hang its hat on.