Hounds a mix of experience and youth

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck softball team returns a solid core of veterans who can field and put their bats on the ball. Senior captain Julia Longo, a three-time all-Naugatuck Valley League second baseman and 2009 all-state honoree, brings back her 37 hits, four home runs and healthy .457 batting average.

All-NVL centerfielder senior Skye Stella had 21 RBIs and a lofty .500 average. Defensively, the Greyhounds have one of the strongest infields in the league, with senior sisters Andrea Granahan at third base and captain Alexis Granahan—and her hardy .391 average—at shortstop.

Senior Liz Hufnagel rounds out the five-member senior class that has high hopes of reaching another NVL title game, which the Hounds won in 2008.

There are a few major pieces missing from last year’s Class L semifinalist, most notably all-state pitcher Alana Wesche, who graduated, and catcher Shelby Hale, who joined the track and field team.

Head coach Kevin Wesche and assistant coach Fred Scheithe have been putting the team through its paces, as Naugatuck, 19-6 last season, looks to compete for an NVL title.

The Greyhounds return a pair of all- NVL selections, center fielder Skye Stella (left) and second baseman Julia Longo, both seniors.

The Greyhounds return a pair of all- NVL selections, center fielder Skye Stella (left) and second baseman Julia Longo, both seniors.

“Any time you have to replace your battery, [pitcher and catcher], you are going to have your work cut out for you,” Wesche said. “But we have a lot of confidence in the two young players who have taken up those roles this season.

“Sophomore pitcher Alexa Marucci took lessons in the offseason with Joe Musante. She has been working on the things and has developed some nice movement on the ball.

“The other advantage,” Wesche continued, “is that Alana will be coming back to be part of our coaching staff. Marucci is very composed out there, doesn’t get rattled, and in a scrimmage on Saturday threw six perfect innings.”

The other half of the tandem will be freshman catcher Sydney Cotto, who has demonstrated hard work and skill both at and behind the dish.

“Sydney is an extremely coachable player and has a good bat,” Wesche said. “Alexa and Sydney have been working real well together.”

Junior Melissa LaBonte brings a lot of speed on the bases and can swing a consistent bat from her left field position. Juniors Lianne Wallace in right field and Daniella Stoehrer at first base are taking over spots vacated by graduation.

Juniors Molly Fallon, Melissa Kirschbaum, Victoria Louth and Joelle Louth add depth to the seven-member junior class.

Sophomore pitcher Carli Pelliccia gives the Greyhounds another option in the circle and sophomores Elizabeth Glick, Victoria Hendricks and Alicia Andrea Roman are working hard to try to earn playing time with the varsity club.

“We have the ability to hit the long ball, as well as play the short game,” Wesche said.

“We are looking to put the opponent’s defense on its heels with a consistent offensive attack. I’m not too concerned with our one through six batters. We will need the bottom of the order to come through for us to be effective.

“I’m excited about this season and what the future holds for Naugatuck softball.”

Naugatuck opened the season Wednesday against Torrington and will take on Norwich Free Academy Saturday at noon in its first out-of-league contest.