Softball preview: Wilton takes aim at playoff berths

Hannah Belanger is one of three seniors who are four-year starters for the Wilton softball team. — J.B. Cozens photo
Hannah Belanger is one of three seniors who are four-year starters for the Wilton softball team. — J.B. Cozens photo

The goals for this season's Wilton High softball team are clear: Qualify for the conference and state tournaments.

While those objectives are straightforward, they have also proven elusive. Wilton has never made the FCIAC playoffs, and the Warriors have failed to qualify for the state tournament in five of the past seven seasons.

Wilton came close to making states last spring, going 6-14 and falling two wins shy of qualifying. But with only one player lost to graduation, the Warriors could be much improved in 2019.

"We've had a real young team the past few years," said head coach Brian Jacobs. "This season we have some good seniors and juniors, so that will make us more experienced."

Wilton's lineup features three seniors who are each entering their fourth seasons as starters: Shortstop Sophia Strazza, centerfielder Hannah Belanger, and first baseman Juliana Musilli.

Strazza made the All-FCIAC first team last year, batting .397 with 21 RBIs and 18 runs scored; Belanger hit .306, scored 11 runs and was named to the All-FCIAC second team; and Musilli batted .315 with 15 RBIs and 13 runs scored and received All-FCIAC honorable mention.

"They are three key players for us," said Jacobs. "Sophia is solid defensively and is a very good hitter; Hannah is great in centerfield and can get on base; and Juliana played a good first base last year and can hit for average and power."

Also back are junior third baseman Maya Farrell and junior outfielder/pitcher Claire Wilson. Farrell hit .386 last spring with 12 RBIs and 14 runs scored, and Wilson batted .347 with 10 RBIs and 11 runs scored.

Add junior pitcher/outfielder Kate Shouvlin and sophomore second baseman Hannah Lifrieri (.382 in 11 games last year before getting injured), and it's easy to see why Jacobs is excited about his team's offensive ability.

"We should have a pretty good batting order," he said. "We have players who can get on base and other players who can produce runs."

Shouvlin and Wilson shared the pitching duties in 2018, and that should be the case again this season. "They both have experience as pitchers," said Jacobs. "That's a positive for us."

With several days remaining before Saturday's season opener, Jacobs was looking to solidify his lineup based on three scrimmages this week. As of Tuesday morning, he was still undecided about who would start at catcher and in one outfield spot. Among the candidates is senior Julianna Russo.

"We haven't had any scrimmages yet, so there are a few unsettled spots," said Jacobs on Tuesday morning. "Things should be clearer once we play the three scrimmages."

Notes: The Warriors missed the state tournament last year after qualifying in both 2016 and 2017.

Wilton opens the season on Saturday (March 30) with a road game against Brien McMahon in Norwalk at 11 a.m.