By John Orrell, Contributing Writer
Northborough – It may take some time for supporters of the Algonquin Regional High School varsity softball team to discern who is who in the lineup this season, but once they do, expect another successful season for this Tomahawk bunch in 2016.
First-year head coach Kristen Morcone steps up to lead the team after two seasons as an assistant and is well aware of the team’s tradition of success. The 2015 squad advanced to a berth in the Division 1 semifinals with a 16-6 record, however five starters (pitcher, catcher, first baseman and a pair of outfielders) graduated, setting up a challenge for Morcone to fill the vacancies.
“We have a couple of new faces in the infield, all new faces in the outfield,” said Morcone, who is assisted by Melissa Fustino and Len Morcone. “It’s going to be a little bit different this year but I’m confident that the girls will rise to the occasion.
“I love this team’s attitude and the way they approach practice every single day. We have a great group of seniors who are phenomenal leaders and just great kids. With our young team, we really need good leaders like them and I’m leaning on them a lot, the captains and the seniors, to show the girls the right way to play.”
“We have a very young team this year so we’re really trying to figure things out like who is going to play what positions,” added senior co-captain Gaby Kennedy. “We’re trying our best and everyone is stepping up to the plate and giving 100 percent and as long as we keep doing that I think we’ll have a good chance of making it [to the playoffs].
“I like that we have a new team in general with new faces, new people come to practice. We’re all new to each other and I think that’s going to make a tremendous season.”
The team will be led by Kennedy and fellow senior co-captain Maddie Collins who were key contributors on the Tomahawks successful volleyball team in the fall. Both will transfers their skills and leadership from the court to the diamond this spring. Enthusiasm and excitement for the season ahead is clearly felt across the team’s roster.
“We’re going to be a totally different team and we have a variety of pitchers who are doing tremendous,” Collins explained. “We have a lot of young talent and I think we’re going to be just fine. We’re working on fundamentals right now and if we can keep on improving we’ll continue to get better.”
Positions are still fluid at this early stage but expect to see junior Hailey Forhan at the top of the lineup and in right field. Her speed in the leadoff spot should jumpstart the team’s offense. Senior Katie Thebado is set to hold down second base while senior Amanda Pageau will see the majority of time at first.
Collins may be the team’s best defender at shortstop and is a dependable hitter; next to her is Kennedy who will anchor third base and pitch. Senior Olivia Vinton swings a good bat and is fleet afoot in the outfield. Junior Brianna Calder is a power hitter batting out of the cleanup spot who will see the majority of time as catcher.
“We’re going to stay focused at practice and focus on fundamentals,” Kennedy stressed. “We have good camaraderie which is a little surprising since we’re a really a new team with a lot of new faces and a lot of people meeting for the first time. We’re definitely developing a team bond and when we come to practice we’re all pretty loud and energetic so we’re going to be fine.”
“We’re still working on what to do pitching-wise,” Morcone said. “We’ll take things game by game. Our defense will get a little more comfortable as the season goes on and be able to back up our pitching. We’re approaching the season with enthusiasm and energy and the chips will fall where they may.
“We’re going to emphasize scoring runs. We’re not going to be shutout pitchers so we’re definitely going to need to find ways to score and capitalize on other teams’ mistakes. We have to play solid defense too and make plays. If we get down, we won’t give up. We’ll battle every at-bat all the way through.”
Other members of the 2016 team are juniors Jordyn Woodworth (OF/SS) and Gabriella Thompson (3B/OF); sophomores Emily Pageau (OF/C), Kayleigh Travins (INF/P) and Emma Hopfmann (2B/P); and freshmen Emily Philbrook (OF/C), Emily Shaw (OF/C), Mia McAuliffe (OF/3B) and Sydney Chase (P/1B).