Familiar faces fill lineup

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Naugatuck High softball captains, from left, Kara Klimaszewski, Shannon Searles and Erika Andreoli will lead an experienced squad this season. –LUKE MARSHALL
Naugatuck High softball captains, from left, Kara Klimaszewski, Shannon Searles and Erika Andreoli will lead an experienced squad this season. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — Coach Kevin Wesche and his team stepped onto the football field last week for the first time this season for tryouts.

Football field? Doesn’t Wesche coach softball?

Wesche does in fact lead the Greyhounds softball team. But due to the snow covering and damping the newly renovated softball field, his team has been forced to temporarily take the turf for practice.

“We had hoped to get a lot of scrimmaging in before the season starts but Mother Nature has had other ideas,” the veteran head coach said.

While the Greyhounds will play on a brand new field this season, there will be a lot of familiar faces to be seen on this experienced squad, which returns seven starters from a very successful 2014 season.

The ‘Hounds went 15-7 last season. Despite their success during the regular season, the Greyhounds lost to undefeated Torrington in the NVL semifinals and to No. 20-seeded Windsor in the first round of the state tournament.

The Greyhounds lost many key players to graduation, including captains Gillian Fortier (2014 All-NVL, All-State), Kait Barry, and Erica Bohuski, all key hitters and leaders for the Greyhounds.

The cupboard isn’t bare for Naugatuck, however.

The Greyhounds return captain Shannon Searles (a four-year starter), captain Kara Klimaszewski (a four-year starter), captain Erika Andreoli (a three-year starter), Sandra Dinis (a two-year starter), Lauren Burns (a two-year starter) Jackie Aronin (a two-year starter), and, of course, their returning number one pitcher, Jenna Miller.

Six of the seven returning Greyhound starters are seniors (Aronin is a junior). Shortstop and left field are the only two spots that Wesche has to worry about filling. He also has to address a hole in the lineup left by the graduation of Fortier, who struck fear into opposing pitchers every time she stepped to the plate.

“A key loss is certainly Gillian,” Wesche said. “Between her ability with the bat and the damage that she made and the fear that she put in her opponent’s eyes.”

Wesche said he sees some solid replacements who have been working hard to claim the open spots.

“We have quite a few people that are being very competitive for those spots,” Wesche said.

Some of those very competitive people are younger players.

“Olivia Rotatori (sophomore) can certainly step in and do some damage with the bat,” Wesche said. “We also look for McKenzi Staples (junior) to step in and fill some of the void in our infield.”

Miller returns for her final year on the rubber and there is no doubt she will be the go-to-gal every game. But who will be there to backup Miller in a time of need? Wesche again will look to his younger players.

“Jess Conover will be our number two pitcher,” Wesche said. “She has a lot of experience with travel ball but not a lot at the varsity level.”

Wesche was hoping for Conover, along with the other players, to gain some of that experience through scrimmages, but he says it has been impossible to play one due to the weather. Naugy had four scrimmages cancelled as of press time.

Despite the difficulty to get some live action before the regular season starts, there is no doubt the Greyhounds should find themselves at the top of the league this year.

Torrington and Woodland will be Naugy’s key teams to look out for this year, as the Greyhounds will have to play those two division foes twice each in the regular season.

Naugatuck is scheduled to open the season on the brand new field April 8 versus Watertown, before traveling to Woodland April 9 and Ansonia April 10.