Softball preview: Wilton looks to build off banner season

Coming off its best season in five years, the Wilton High softball team is hungry for even more this spring.

“After the accomplishments of last year, they’re ready to pick up where they left off and continue on,” head coach Brian Jacobs said of this year’s team, which hasn’t let the absence of field time (due to weather conditions) affect its spirit.

“They’re focused and they look sharp. They’ve been very hardworking and very positive,” said Jacobs, whose team is scheduled to open the season Monday at home. “They’re excited to get the season started.”

There’s plenty to be excited about. The Warriors return 10 players, including seven starters, from last year’s 12-10 squad, which was the first Wilton team to make the state tournament since 2011.

The 12 wins equaled the program record for most wins in a season.

Last year, the Warriors also just missed out on making the FCIAC playoffs for the first time ever.

Anchoring the team once again is the starting battery of pitcher Sage Zunda and catcher Eliza Ward, who return for their fourth season together. They are this year’s senior captains.

Zunda, who last season finished with a 3.56 earned run average, with 112 strikeouts in 147 innings and only 29 walks, has come back stronger than ever.

“You can tell she’s come back stronger and sharper than she was even last year,” said Jacobs.

Both Zunda and Ward were honorable mention all-FCIAC last season.

Both swung big bats at the plate last year, as well. Ward was third on the team in hitting (.364) and second in hits (28), while Zunda batted .299 with 23 hits and a team-high 20 RBI.

The team’s third senior is returning starting left fielder Pippa Gosden.

In centerfield, the team returns junior Hannah Belanger, an all-FCIAC second team pick last year. She was second on the team in hitting (.382), and led the Warriors in hits (29), runs (24) and doubles (four). She also had 13 RBI.

Sophomore Sophia Strazza returns as starting shortstop. Last season, as a freshman, she batted .247 with 20 hits. She was second on the team in RBI (17) and runs scored (18), and led the team in extra-base hits with seven (three doubles, two triples and two homers).

How the final lineup will shake out is still to be determined, as the weather has set back the finalization of the team.

“We have a lot of really solid returners. It’s just a matter of figuring out what the best combination is,” Jacobs said. “We’re experimenting with different options. There’s competition for all the spots we need to solidify.”

Returning starters include juniors Maddy Christl, Anne Beneventano and Isabel Casiraghi, and sophomores Juliana Musilli (who played third base last year) and Brianna Catino. Last season, Christl batted .236 with 13 hits and nine runs scored, while Musilli had six hits and scored seven runs.

The Warriors add two promising freshmen in Maya Farrell and Claire Wilson.

Wilton graduated two starters in second baseman Julia Schiavone and outfielder Emily Ettie (.300, 21 hits), while outfielder Emma Cropper, who led the team in hitting last season (.413), transferred to a different school.
— J.B. Cozens