Softball preview: Warriors expect progress to continue
After winning 21 games over the past two seasons, as good a two-year stretch as it’s ever had, the Wilton High softball team will look to keep its momentum going when the 2018 season opens on Saturday at home against Enfield.
The team returns all but two starters from last year, when the 29th-seeded Warriors shocked fourth-seeded Bristol Eastern, 5-1, in the Class L playoffs and gave Amity a battle in a 2-0 season-ending loss.
The experience should serve the team well this spring.
“It seems every year we’re a little further along, developmentally speaking,” said head coach Brian Jacobs. “We definitely feel we’re coming in further ahead at this point of the season than we were last year.”
Graduation did take a significant toll, as the Warriors lost four-year starters in pitcher Sage Zunda and catcher Eliza Ward, along with Pippa Gosden, a two-year starter in left field.
Ward was second in hitting last year (.284) and led the team in hits (28) and doubles (6). She also had 19 runs scored and 15 RBI. Gosden batted .292 with 14 hits.
Zunda’s season was ended early with an injury. She was able to pitch in only eight games.
The silver lining in that misfortune was that freshman Kate Shouvlin was forced into the starting role on the mound, and enters the new season with more varsity experience than she would have had otherwise.
Shouvlin finished with a record of 5-7 and a 3.08 earned run average. In the two state playoff games, she allowed only three runs on nine hits.
Shouvlin, who batted .261 last year, will be back on the mound again for Wilton, which also is looking for contributions from two other pitchers, sophomore Claire Wilson and freshman Hannah Lifrieri.
“We’ve got a little depth there,” Jacobs said of the pitching.
Lifrieri is also a versatile player capable of playing infield or outfield, depending on where she is needed.
Maya Farrell, a sophomore who started in right field last season, will move behind the plate this year. A year ago, she was among the team leaders in batting (.290) and hits (20), and was second on the team with 16 RBI.
The rest of the infield returns intact, anchored by junior shortstop Sophia Strazza, a team captain this season. Last year Strazza was named to the all-FCIAC second team. She led the Warriors in hitting (.386), RBI (28), doubles (6) and home runs (4), and was second in hits (27) and runs (20).
Also back is second baseman Juliana Musilli, a junior who batted .281 with 16 hits and 13 RBI, senior first baseman Iso Casiraghi (.200, .333 on-base percentage), and third baseman Wilson (.239, 16 hits).
With Gosden graduating and Farrell moving to catcher, the only returning starter in the outfield is junior captain Hannah Belanger in centerfield. Belanger earned all-FCIAC honorable mention last season. She was third on the team in hitting (.333) and hits (23), and led Wilton in runs scored (24) and walks (13). She also was a standout defensively.
Vying for the other outfield spots are returning junior Brianna Catino, new juniors Emily O’Brien and Tori Choinski, and freshman Hailey Dube.
After going 1-1 in the state tournament the past two seasons, the Warriors are hoping to extend the season a few more games this year, as well as make the FCIAC playoffs for the first time.
“Our goals are pretty much like the last couple of years. We want to go out there and make the states and try to win multiple games in states,” said Jacobs, whose team went 5-11 in FCIAC play last season.
Bruce Cunningham is also back as assistant coach for Wilton, which adds two new varsity coaches in Samantha Scavo and Ron Lienhardt.
Last year: 9-13
Post-season: lost to Amity in second round of Class L playoffs, 2-0.
Captains: Hannah Belanger, Sophia Strazza.
Key losses: C Eliza Ward, P Sage Zunda, OF Pippa Gosden.
Top returners; junior CF Hannah Belanger (all-FCIAC honorable mention), junior SS Sophia Strazza (second-team all-FCIAC), sophomore P Kate Shouvlin, sophomore C Maya Farrell, sophomore 3B/P Claire Wilson, junior 2B Juliana Musilli, senior 1B Iso Casiraghi.
Key newcomers: freshman Hannah Lifrieri, junior Emily O’Brien, junior Tori Choinski, freshman Hailey Dube.