Season Previews: Softball so strong

Milford High softball, per usual, is right back atop the heap in Division II.

“I don’t ever have a rebuilding year,” said Jim Rines, coach of the two-time defending state champion Spartans. “I expect our team to compete on every pitch and work harder than our competition every day.”

Longtime Souhegan assistant Tony Doucet is now in charge.

While a lot of the spotlight has been on the Spartans, watch out for the Sabers, led by senior shortstop Maddie Robicheau, one of Division II’s best who is headed to Fairfield next year.

“We lost three seniors from last year, and only have one senior,” Souhegan coach Doucet said, “but we still anticipate being a top team in Division II.”

In Division IV, Wilton-Lyndeborough lost a couple of key players who moved away but gained a couple of newcomers who should help make up for that. The Warriors got two upset tourney road wins to make the semis, so look for them to try to take the next big step.

Souhegan, Milford

showing baseball promise

Portsmouth will likely be strong again in Division II. Suddenly it’s an inexperienced Souhegan team.

The Sabers lost top potential seniors Bryce Reagan to prep school and Alec Burns to injury. Much of the focus will instead be on head coach Bill Dod, whose historic coaching career will come to an end in two months after 50 illustrious seasons.

Milford won 10 games last year but ended on a bad note with a quick tourney exit, but could be stronger. Expect improvement from Hollis Brookline, as well, after missing the tourney at 7-9 a year ago, if its pitching comes through.

“I like this team a lot so far,” Milford coach Todd Robichaud said. “We have a lot of junior and seniors and they want to win. They don’t want to have what happened last year (early tourney exit) happen this year.”

In Division IV, Wilton-Lyndeborough has several starters back from a nine-win team that lost by a run in last spring’s prelims, the key one being senior shortstop Jake LeVert, who hit over .350 and was a top base stealer.

“We have more young pitching than I have ever had,” W-L coach Dave Finch said. “We will need strong contributions from all of them to be successful.”

Girls track packing star power

The two-time defending Division II indoor track state champions may not be as deep– and sprint sensation Abby Cranney is a Division I (UNH) lacrosse recruit — but the Sabers will nonetheless be a force again this spring.

Elise Lambert’s amazing versatility, being a threat to score in the high jump, distances and hurdles, continues to anchor the group. Senior Jane Leighton, junior Arielle Zlotnick and sophomore Marissa Romano are distance point-getters.

The Sabers will also add nine freshmen into the mix.

Just .03 seconds from an indoor state championship in Division II, the Milford girls should again be strong this spring.

Pittsburgh recruit Rebecca Durham remains a dominant force in the Northeast as a distance runner. She and junior sprinter/long jumper Viankah Williams struck individual gold in doors.

If Williams is healthy, she’s as good as anyone in the state sprint ranks, and freshman Renee Wilson seems destined for stardom.

More boys trying outdoor track

In Division II, Milford will look to improve with an influx of talented young athletes in the program and a senior quartet of Blake Audibert, Will Shepard, Mike Boucher and Ben Valliant, who should all regularly rack up points.

“We have 40 boys, our largest team ever,” said coach mike Wright. “We’re looking for a top-five finish at states.”

Souhegan coach John Eastman is pleased with the growth of his boys program this spring with a dozen new freshmen joining the ranks.

“Our boys team has improved in numbers for the spring and should be more competitive than last year,” said Eastman. “But but most of the additional athletes are ninth graders, so it will take time for them to excel against the older athletes they face all season.”

Milford Baseball

Coach: Todd Robichaud.

2017: 10-7, lost to Bow in first round.

Returning Starters: Tyler Gendron, sr. ss-p; Jameson Pare, sr. inf-p; Ricky DeBernardo, sr. of-p; Sam Santaniello, jr. c.

Returning Letter Winners: Bill Dobbs, sr. of; Nick Mazzeo, sr. of; Dominic Palmisano, sr. 2b; Kolbe Heiple, jr. 1b-p.

Promising Newcomers: Trevor Coyne, so.of; Colin Pynn, jr. inf-p; Kyle Nostrand, jr. of; Max Fortin, jr. 3b-p; Cam Meyer, jr. 2b.

Wilton-Lyndeborough Baseball

Coach: Dave Finch.

2017: 9-7, lost to Hopkinton in first round.

Returning Starters: Jake LeVert,; Cody Johnson, sr. of; Neal Brennan, jr. p-inf; Shane Partridge, jr. 1b; Owen Hughes, jr. c-p; Lucas Johnson, so.of; Jacob Boette, so. of.

Returning Letter Winners: Dylan Rondeau, so. of; Zach Robillard. sr. of.

Promising Newcomers: Troy Brennan, Sean Brennan, Kyler Tremblay, J.J Leblanc,Nick Hughes, Owen O’Halloran.

Milford Softball

Coach: Jim Rines.

2017: 17-3, beat Pembroke for state title.

Returning Starters: Stephanie Bishop, sr. c; Paige Delier, sr. 1b; Jenna De’Angelis, so.p-ss; Amanda Atkinson, p-ss.

Returning Letter Winners: Abby Sites, jr. 3b; Brennan Parker, so.of; Cora Holtshouser, so. 2B-of.

Promishing Newomers: Raven Comtois, jr. of-inf-c; Abby Stillwagon, so.of-p; Shannon Harbison, so. p-1b.

Souhegan Softball

Coach: Tony Doucet (first year)

2017: 15-3, lost to Milford in semis.

Returning Starters: Maddie Robicheau,; Megan Tupaj, so.1b; Lucy Stover, jr.2b; Cameron Whitney, so.p; Carrie Speer, jr.of; Mary Rotthoff, so.c.

Returning Letter Winners: Rheanna Wilson, jr.of; Callie McBride so.of-inf; Margot Redway, jr.of.

Promising Newcomers: Jenna Speer, so.3b-p; Ava Van Ballegooyen, fr.of; Maddie Lamar, fr.inf; Julia Kalinowski, jr.inf-of.

Wilton-Lyndeborough Softball

Coach: Denny Claire.

2017: 11-8, lost in semifinals.

Returning Starters: Janel Bachand, jr. c-inf; Lexi Balam, jr.p; Rachel Christino, jr. inf; Abby Leblanc, jr. inf; Brooke Lane, eighth grade, inf; Emma Skelly, jr. of; Kaitlin Loverme, so. of.

Returning Letter Winners: Sophia Sistachs, fr. of.

Promising Newcomers: Lily Foisie, sr. inf-of; Sam Yurcak, inf-of.

Souhegan Boys Track

Coach: John Eastman

Key Returners: Tom Darnell, Sr., shot put/discus; Dean Paquette, Sr., shot put/discus; Harrison Mazur, Sr., distance, pole vault; Vincent Bowman, Jr., shot put/discus; Bill Drake, Jr., distance; Carter Schade, Jr., distance; Nathan Stine, Jr., distance; Tom Headington, Soph., distance

Milford Boys Track

Coach: Mike Wright

Key Returners: Blake Audibert, Sr., distance; Will Shepard, Sr., pole vault; Mike Boucher, Sr., shot put; Ben Valliant, Sr., 400; Victor Garcia, Jr., sprints/long jump; Ashanti Maroni, Jr., discus; Jake Williams, Jr., hurdles/triple Jump; Garrett Majore Soph., hurdles/high jump/pole vault; Billy Cook, Soph., pole vault; Emannuel Ughu, Soph., shot put

Promising Newcomers: Caleb Korthals, Frosh., distance

Wilton-Lyndeborough Boys Track

Head Coach: Marc Belanger

Key Returners: Sam Bailey, Jr., throws; Owen McGettigan, Jr., throws; Lucas Schnare, Sr., sprints/high jump; Jacob Yurcak, Sr., sprints/high jump; Stephen Edelblut, Jr., 100/400; Sam Blanchette, Frosh., sprints

Promising Newcomers: Sam Boette, Grade 8, 100/800; Ephram Ducaharm, Frosh., sprints; Sam Townsend, Frosh., sprints/high jump; Wesley Leblanc, Jr., sprints/high jump

Milford Girls Track

Coach: Mike Wright

Key Returners: Rebecca Durham, Sr., distance/javelin; Bre DeGroot, Sr., shot put; Viankah Williams, Jr., sprints/long jump; Lauren Robinson, Jr., distance; Autumn Ciardelli-Zaryckyk, Jr., shotput; Meg Sawyer, Jr., 400; Ashleigh Matsis, Jr., middle distance; Robyn Krafft, Soph, throws; Kaydee Mann, Soph., shotput; Makayla Sullivan, Soph, hurdles; Emily Sullivan, Soph., 800; Liz Rodil, Soph., 800; Valari Vander-Heyden, Soph., 800; Meliha Grizovic Soph., hurdles/triple jump; Sydney Kolasinski, Soph., long jump

Promising Newcomers: Renee Wilson, Frosh., sprints/long jump; Olivia Vogel, Frosh., pole vault; Nicole Skare, Frosh., pole vault; Leslie MacGrath, Frosh., high jump

Souhegan Girls Track

Coach: John Eastman

Key Competitors: Elise Lambert, Sr., distance/hurdles/high jump; Jane Leighton, Sr., distance; Kayla Kilcrease, Jr., sprints; Jenny Ladd, Jr., distance/pole vault; Katherine O’Brien, Jr., sprints/jumps; Shannon Paquette, Jr., discus/pole vault; Arielle Zlotnick, Jr., distance; Ashley Barham, Soph., hurdles/shot put; Mackenzie Hayden, Soph., distance; Georgia Jones, Soph., distance; India Jones, Soph., Katie Noyes, Soph., sprints; Marissa Romano, Soph., distance

Wilton-Lyndeborough Girls Track

Coach: Marc Belanger

Key Competitors: Sam Boette, Grade 8, sprints/middle distance; Jailyn Gilcreast, jr., throws; Rama Koudsi, Soph., sprints/javelin; Madeline Smith, Soph., throws; Megan Vanerwoude, Sr., 100; Ella Kelley, Grade 8, sprints/ middle distance; Hannah Kelley, Sr., sprints