Teams look to join usual suspects
There are the usual suspects – Salem in Division I, Coe-Brown in Division II, Campbell and White Mountains in Division III, and Wilton-Lyndeborough in Division IV – to look out for, but there are also a few teams that constantly toy with the idea of making deep tournament runs that could really break out this spring.
Locally, Alvirne and Bishop Guertin are those teams in Division I along with Spaulding of Rochester and Timberlane Regional of Plaistow.
Fittingly enough, the Broncos and Cardinals will square off at 4 p.m. in Monday’s season opener in Hudson.
Junior catcher Sara Siteman and pitcher Nicole Teague lead the Broncos into the 2016 campaign. Three years together as the varsity battery bodes well for Alvirne, which along with Ashley Silva and Holly Sanville returns a strong junior class – accompanied by returning sophomore starters Liz DeRosa and Jenna Bradish.
Fifth-year Broncos coach Sarah Brisk is excited for the first pitch.
"I’m looking forward to seeing this year’s team compete," she said. "The team chemistry is already apparent. … We have added speed to the team and our defense is one of the best in the state. If we can consistently hit this year, we will be very successful."
Alvirne, which won the Division I title in 2011 and 2012, is hoping a return to championship Saturday in June at Southern New Hampshire University is in order.
Likewise, BG is considered a favorite to return to the final four. The Cardinals came up just short of facing defending champion Dover in the final, instead suffering a semifinal loss to eventual runner-up Salem.
With their own junior battery of catcher Neysa Ouellette and pitcher Bridget Soraghan, the Cardinals are confident they can return to SNHU. They’re strong up the middle with the veteran battery, and the return of junior Dakota Bilodeau at shortstop.
Nashua North is a D-I darkhorse. The Titans return five starters from last year’s squad, highlighted by senior shortstop Hannah Neverett, a two-time first-team All-State selection, Alley Fortin, a three-year starter in left field, and hard-hitting catcher Jacqueline Dumont, who led the Titans in home runs as a freshman last season.
Nashua South and Merrimack are rebuilding as the spring begins.
In Division II, defending champion Coe-Brown and runner-up Goffstown are eyeing a title game rematch. Windham, Milford and even Souhegan are also teams to watch, according to D-II coaches.
Milford returns eight starters from last year’s quarterfinal team – junior hurlers Delaney Parker and Carley Holtshouser, senior middle infielders Erin Tyrrell (shortstop) and Cora Rogers (second base), junior third baseman Jennifer Carson, sophomore catcher/outfielder Stephanie Bishop, sophomore first baseman/catcher Paige Delier and junior outfielder Rachel Nelson.
Souhegan’s success will rest on the reliable shoulders of pitchers Hannah Cochran and Hailey Yabroudy, a senior and junior, respectively.
Hollis Brookline is transitioning from a team that relied heavily on one pitcher for four years to a squad utilizing multiple pitchers, but the biggest story for the 2016 Cavaliers may be how long second-year coach Erin Robbins is in the dugout. She’s not on the hot seat, rather nine months pregnant and ready to hand over the reins to assistant Brian Bumpus any day now.
Division III and IV have given local fans plenty of excitement in recent years. Campbell in D-III and Wilton-Lyndeborough in D-IV have reached the title game five times in the last seven years.
While defending D-III champion Campbell may take a step back this spring after winning four titles since 2009, including the last three, WLC is looking to reach its sixth D-IV final in eight years with hopes of winning a third title in that span (2012, 2014).
The favorite in Division III is 2012 champion and three-time runner-up White Mountains. Other teams to keep a close eye on include Hopkinton, Franklin, Berlin and Prospect Mountain.
Defending D-IV champion Sunapee is a heavy favorite to repeat, while runner-up Moultonborough, Portsmouth Christian and WLC from the south look to challenge, along with northern contenders from Colebrook, Woodsville and Gorham.
In WLC coach Denny Claire’s eyes, after Sunapee, D-IV is wide open. Led by the senior battery of catcher Ally Schwab and pitcher Sara Holka, his Warriors will be in the mix.
"There’s better balance in the division," the 29th-year Warriors coach said. "Many of the younger teams will be improved with experience gained last year."
COACH: Sarah Brisk (fifth year).
2015: 14-4; lost to Dover in tournament quarterfinals.
RETURNING STARTERS: Sara Siteman, jr.; Nicole Teague, jr.; Ashley Silva, jr.; Holly Sanville, jr.; Liz DeRosa, so.; Jenna Bradish, so.
OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Emma Stevens, sr.; Kera Kelly, sr.; Viv Susko, sr.; Brooke Schrieb, jr.; Kelli Kennedy, jr.; Jamie DeAngelo, jr.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Haley Peaslee, fr.; Alicia Salvaizo, fr.
COACH’S COMMENT: "I’m looking forward to seeing this year’s team compete," Brisk said. "The team chemistry is already apparent. We have a very strong junior class that is complemented by two returning sophomores, two new incoming freshmen and three seniors. We have added speed to the team and our defense is one of the best in the state. If we can consistently hit this year we will be very successful."
COACH: Nicole Adamson (fourth year).
2015: 15-6; lost to Salem in tournament semifinals.
RETURNING STARTERS: Dakota Bilodeau, jr., SS; Neysa Ouellette, jr., C; Bridget Soraghan, jr., P.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Emilie Tousignant, jr., utility; Kathleen Atkinson, jr., 2B; Bailey Bobzien, jr., 1B; Sara Hey, so., OF; Bonnie Gillis, so., utility; Kim Macia, so., utility; Meredith Basta, fr., C; Emma Koopman, fr., OF; Cassandra Holt, fr., 3B; Ania Kwiecinski, fr., OF; Jasmine Javanbakht, fr., OF; Ashley Wong, fr., OF.
COACH’S COMMENTS: "We have a very excited and willing group this year," Adamson said. "Our focus to become one percent better through work ethic and positivity continues as a constant program philosophy."
COACH: Jim Peltak (11th year).
2015: 9-9; lost in first round of the tournament.
RETURNING STARTERS: Lauren Gerhard, sr., C; Jackson Gutekunst, sr., 2B; Olivia Kapsambelis, so., 1B.
OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Brianna Bergevin, so., P; Liz Scheurich, so., OF; Olivia Tsatsa, so., OF.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Brenna Davenport, fr., SS; Jocelyn Doyon, fr., OF; Jess Trahan, fr., 3B/C; Katelyn Parlow, fr., INF/OF; Ashley Turcotte, fr., INF/OF; Julia Valluzzi, fr., P/INF.
COACH’S COMMENT: "We are a very young team, so mistakes will happen," Peltak said. "As long as we minimize the mistakes and learn from them, we will have a successful season."
COACH: Wake Stillman (fourth year).
2015: 7 -11; lost to Londonderry in first round of tournament.
RETURNERS: Hannah Neverett, sr., SS; Alley Fortin, sr., OF; Casey Milliken, jr., INF; Lexus Gayac, jr., OF; Brittany Wheeler, jr., P; Jacqueline Dumont, so., C.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Mikhaila Robert, sr., OF; Sydney Laforge, jr., P/OF; Stephanie Shah, jr., INF/OF; Hayley McQuinn, jr., INF; Allison Alton, so., OF; Maria Alton, fr., INF/OF.
COACH’S COMMENT: "To be successful this year, North will need to blend several new players into the mix as quickly as possible – as the schedule is front-loaded with many of the traditionally strong teams," Stillman said. "As usual, I expect teams such as Salem, Timberlane, Concord and Spaulding to be strong although there are many more teams who can contend for this year’s title."
COACH: Ray DeRusha (first year).
2015: 1-17; did not qualify for the tournament.
RETURNING STARTERS: Leah Frost, jr., 3B; Alissa Ouellette, sr., C/OF.
OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Delia Callery, so., P/1B; Bryanna DiPaolo, so., SS/2B.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Ashleigh Allen, sr., P; Elizabeth Bull, jr., P; Amber Dube, fr., SS/OF; Alissa Escobales, fr., OF; Makayla Fulgoni, jr., OF; Kourtnie Hamel, fr., 1B/3B; Annabella Lividoti, so., OF/INF; Rylee Marchand, so., C; Tatum Moore, so., P/OF; Courtney Olsen, so., 2B/C; Ellison White, jr., INF; Danielle Wolfe, jr., OF.
COACH’S COMMENT: "We are a young team, learning how to compete and how to overcome the adversity we will face," first-year coach Ray DeRusha said. "The players have worked hard this preseason both physically and mentally. When things are not going well for them this preseason, I’m constantly reminding them that sometimes you win and sometimes you learn. Taking the positive out every play and building confidence is a must for us this season."
COACH: Erin Robbins (second year).
2015: 12-4, lost to Sanborn in tournament quarterfinals.
RETURNING STARTERS: Kelsey Mansfield, sr., P/1B; Stepahnie Buchanan, sr., SS; Olivia Lukovits, sr., 2B; Kenzie Day, jr., OF; Natalie Paquin, jr., OF; Avery Webb, so., C.
OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Miranda Moscatelli, jr., OF; Katie Connors, jr., 3B/OF.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Skyler Mack, fr., INF/OF; Cassidy Piggot, fr., P/3B/1B; Isabel Keefe, so., DH/OF; Savanna Bent, so., OF; Delaney Kovalchek, fr., DH/1B.
COACH’S COMMENT: "Staying healthy is key," Robbins said. "We have a lot of talent this year and it will be fun to watch what the girls do."
COACH: Jim Rines (third year).
2015: 10-8; lost to Goffstown in tournament quarterfinals.
RETURNERING STARTERS: Erin Tyrrell, sr., SS; Cora Rogers, sr., 2B; Delaney Parker, jr., P/OF; Carley Holtshouser, jr., P/OF; Rachel Nelson, jr., OF; Jennifer Carson, jr., 3B; Stephanie Bishop, so., C/OF; Paige Delier, so., 1B/C.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Christina Arnoldy, jr., OF; Shelby Houghton, so., utility; Acatrina Chaput, so., P/utility; Janel Bachand, fr., utility; Abbie Sites, fr., 1B/2B.
COACH’S COMMENTS: "Players don’t change, they adjust," Rines said. "Coaches adjust by understanding the personalities and abilities of each athlete. It is my responsibility to trust them and to enjoy them playing this special game that demands commitment and dedication – every day, 364 days a year with only one day off."
COACH: Andrea Bruneau (eighth year).
2015: 10-7; lost to Milford in first round.
RETURNING STARTERS: Hannah Cochran, sr., P; Hailey Yabroudy, jr., P; Alli Canavan, sr., 1B; Cassidy Alger, sr., 3B; Sam Cushing, jr., C; Madison Robicheau, so., ss.
OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Sam Speer, jr., INF.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Maddie Maurais, jr., OF; Lucy Stover, fr., OF; Margot Redway, fr., OF; Rheanna Wilson, fr., OF; Carrie Speer, fr., OF; Abi Maclatchy, fr., OF.
COACH’S COMMENT: "After graduating all of our outfielders last spring, finding the right outfield mix will be a key," assistant coach Tony Doucette said. "We’ll have to have some of these younger kids fill those roles and grow into the position. We are returning two great pitchers and that will definitely be our strength."
COACH: Michael Soby (second year).
2015: 19-1; Division III champions.
RETURNING STARTERS: Haleigh Cardello, sr., INF; Amber Gibbons, sr., INF; Olivia Martinage, sr., INF.
OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Cassidy Gibbons, so., INF; Hanna Cote, jr., INF/OF; Emma Rousseau, so., INF/OF; Jess Manning, so., INF; Mary Kuczkowski, so., INF/OF.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Brittany Pratt, so., OF; Lauren McInerney, so., OF; Maddy Trevains, so., OF; Abigail Gray, fr., INF/OF; Meghan Gibbons, fr., INF; Olivia Carlson, fr., INF/OF; Marissa Carignan, fr., OF; Olivia Garand, fr., INF.
COACH’S COMMENTS: "The key to our success will be for us to remain focused and test ourselves every day to get better to become a competitive team," Soby said. "We just need to take things one game, one inning and one out at a time."
COACH: Denny Claire (29th year).
2015: 14-4; lost to Portsmouth Christian in tournament quarterfinals.
RETURNING STARTERS: Ally Schwab, sr., C; Sara Holka, sr., P/INF; Zandra Morris, sr., 1B; Tesa Simpson, sr., SS; Lexi Balam, fr., P/INF; Kassy Cavarretta, sr., OF.
OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Julie Joyal, sr., OF.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Abby LeBlanc, fr., INF; Emma Skelly, fr., OF; Rachel Christino, fr., INF/OF; Celia Macarelli, jr., OF; Jayla Gilcreast, fr., OF; Jaden Lemay, eighth grade, P/INF/OF; Sami Yurcak, seventh grade, INF/OF.
COACH’S COMMENT: "We must stay healthy," Claire said, highlighting his keys to success for the Warriors. "We need hitting throughout the lineup. Newcomers must improve both on offense and defense as we lost three very good starters at key positions. We need to peak at the right time. For us to be in the mix, we have to have veteran players step up and help the young players adjust to playing at the varsity level."