Softball preview: Zunda, Ward lead Wilton

With just two seniors, the Wilton High softball team was among the FCIAC’s youngest last season.

The Warriors will be senior-lite again this spring, although experienced players at the sport’s two pivotal positions, pitcher and catcher, should aid the team’s quest to qualify for the state tournament after coming one victory short in 2015.

“We have a young team again this year, only three seniors and three juniors, so the sophomore and freshmen classes will have a big impact on the season,” said third-year head coach Brian Jacobs. “We’ve been making a lot of strides over the past few years, and I think that the position we find ourselves in at the start of this season has been as good as ever.”

The return of pitcher Sage Zunda (5-12, 3.29 ERA) and catcher Eliza Ward, both juniors, is a big reason for optimism, according to Jacobs.

“The combo of Sage Zunda pitching and Eliza catching is going to be key, and they are both big components of the offense as well,” said Jacobs, whose team is scheduled to open the season today (4:30) at Brookfield. “We are expecting big things from them both this year, offensively and defensively.”

Zunda led the Warriors in batting average (.485), hits (32) and RBIs (26) last season. Ward batted .379, scored a team-high 25 runs, and had a team-best 10 stolen bases.

Beyond those two, Jacobs was hesitant to name starters at each position.

“We are still experimenting with some defensive formations/batting orders, so it's tough for me to comment just yet on what the lineup is going to look like,” said Jacobs last Wednesday morning. “We have a lot of good talent in the infield and the outfield, but, as I said, we are still working on developing what our best lineup will be.”

In addition to Zunda and Ward, Wilton’s returning players include seniors Julia Schiavone, Emily Ettie and Nicole Kosar; junior Pippa Gosden; and sophomores Anne Beneventano, Isabel Casiraghi, Maddy Christl, Emma Cropper, and Taylor Floyd.

The seven freshmen are Hannah Belanger, Brianna Catino, Victoria Choinski, Cate McCabe, Juliana Musilli, Grace Rizzo, and Sophie Strazza.

“The team has been working very hard since we began [the pre-season], and we feel we've been taking steps forward each practice/scrimmage, so we’re all very excited to get the regular season started next week,” said Jacobs. “This is a great group — not only in terms of talent, but also in terms of work ethic and team chemistry. They are very supportive of each other, in practices and in games.”

Notes: Wilton finished with a 7-13 record last year, a marked improvement from the team’s 4-16 record in 2014.

Wilton’s two graduation losses were centerfielder Nicole Amato and infielder Ally Rauccio. Amato batted .378 with 20 runs scored, 28 hits, and 15 RBIs, while Raccio was limited by injury to eight games and batted .261.

The Warriors ended last season with three straight victories to get within one win of making the Class LL tournament.

One key for Wilton will be its fielding. The Warriors committed 67 errors and surrendered 62 unearned runs last year.