NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck softball team lost seven players to graduation after last season. However, any team that looks past the relatively young Greyhounds may be in for a surprise.
Despite the loss of several experienced players, Naugatuck returns the league’s home run leader, a seasoned No. 1 starting pitcher and a group of flexible players that could make the Greyhounds a dangerous team in the Naugatuck Valley League.
After a 14-9 season last year that ended in an opening-round state tournament loss, the ‘Hounds should be able to provide a potent offense. Sophomore Gillian Fortier, who led the NVL with 10 homers despite missing four games, will be in the heart of the lineup.
Fortier earned All-NVL and All-State honors by hitting .617, driving in 36 runs and scoring 34 more. In addition, she plays multiple positions, including first, third, outfield and catcher.
Greyhounds coach Kevin Wesche said he is confident the hitters surrounding Fortier in the lineup will make her difficult to pitch around.
“Gillian is a versatile player and is a strength wherever you need it,” Wesche said.
Sarah Chandler, a junior and one of the team’s three captains, returns to shortstop. Sophomore Erica Bohuski will play second.
Chandler hit .270 with a .429 on-base percentage, while Bohuski hit .290 with a .531 OBP. Senior Carli Pellicia will see time at third base, while junior Sydney Cotto could catch or play first.
Chandler will be a key component to Naugy’s success, both in the field and at the plate.
“She’ll hit near the top of the order and isn’t afraid to dive for a ball and get dirty,” Wesche said.
In the outfield, the ‘Hounds feature freshman Kara Klimaszewski, who will also bat leadoff. Klimaszewski is one of two freshmen projected to be everyday players. The corner outfield positions will see a mix of Nina Kosciuszek, Victoria Hendricks, Fortier and senior captain Lizzie Glick.
Senior Alexa Marucci will be the team’s No. 1 starter. Marucci won 11 games last season and was a Connecticut Junior Select player.
“Alexa has come back stronger and more focused, and has shown a greater variety of pitches,” Wesche said, while also noting Kosciuszek will see time as a pitcher as well.
The team’s pitchers may also be pitching a lot to another fresh face on the team — freshman Shannon Searles, who has earned time behind the plate in the preseason.
The mix of youth and experience could be an interesting combination and might surprise more experienced teams.
“If people look at what we lost, we might surprise some people,” Wesche said.
Naugy opens the season at home against Wolcott on Wednesday and travels to Holy Cross on Thursday before hosting Sacred Heart on April 9 at 3:30 p.m.