Softball 2014: St. Joseph Trying To Stay A Step Ahead Of A Hungry Pack

Sophomore Nicole Williams is one reason St. Joseph is a favorite to return to the FCIAC championship game. (Photo: Katie Burns)
Sophomore pitcher Nicole Williams is one reason St. Joseph is a favorite to return to the FCIAC championship game. (Photo: Katie Burns)

When we last left you 10 months ago, New Canaan — yes, New Canaan, where sticks and not bats usually predominate in the spring — was winning its first-ever FCIAC softball title.

The Rams were the sixth seed, a tribute to last season’s parity, when just two games separated the second through seventh seeds in the FCIAC Tournament.

Balance should again be a keyword this spring, though the dynamic will be different. Most of the top teams lost their best hitters. That means pitching, always the most important commodity, but one that was marginalized when the distance between mound and plate was moved back four feet, should return to being a vital element.

Not surprisingly, the preseason favorites all have good pitching.

The Favorite

St. Joseph. The Cadets have been stewing since getting edged by New Canaan in the conference final and then upset in the second round of the state tournament (they had a first-round bye) after losing just three times during the regular season. They suffered one of the biggest losses in catcher Jenn Vazquez (who has already hit five home runs as a freshman at Manhattan College). But St. Joseph is loaded and again the team to beat. Nicole Williams, 12-3 with a 1.48 earned run average as a freshman, is now mostly the full-time pitcher, with Tori Ceballos, who earned All-FCIAC and All-State honors, moving to first base. Lauren Pitney, who hit .365, is one of the league’s best shortstops. Outfielders Amy Chacho and Mikaela Mallozzi batted .415 and .386 respectively, while Katie Gardella (.426) is moving to second base. A talented team with something to prove is a dangerous combination.

Tori Ceballos earned All-FCIAC and All-State honors for St. Joseph as a junior. (Photo: Katie Burns)
Tori Ceballos earned All-FCIAC and All-State honors for St. Joseph as a junior. (Photo: Katie Burns)

The Contenders

Darien. Erika Osherow, a junior who only seems to be entering her sixth season, is the kind of shutdown pitcher who could carry the Blue Wave to their third league title in four years. She batted .500, making her a dual threat. Catcher Rebecca DeMaio (.435, 28 RBIs) will be one of the FCIAC’s top hitters. Coach Nick DeMaio has an infield of second baseman Julia Domiziano (.344), shortstop Avery Maley (.404) and third baseman Kelly Vodola (.377) that has gained valuable experience.

New Canaan. Last year was a dream season for the Rams and Danielle Simoneau, the first player to win FCIAC titles as both a player and coach. The Rams were decimated by graduation losses, but have a strong returning pitcher in Ali Reilly and depth at the position with hard-throwing Jamie Schlim, a transfer from St. Luke’s. There are a number of young but highly touted players who will play key roles.

Fairfield Ludlowe. The Falcons may have the league’s most feared hitter, third baseman Brenna Martini, who will provide great comfort to new coach Shari Paci. Ludlowe must deal with the loss of underrated pitcher/outfielder Aliza Guerrero, but have a number of returning starters in Bridgette Anderson, Katie DeCarlo, Colleen Lambert, Alice Nelson, Nickey Tygesen and Reagan Walker. Ludlowe’s program has grown into a consistent winner and that will remain the same.

Mikaela Mallozzi gives St. Joseph one of the league's top outfielders. (Photo: Katie Burns)
Mikaela Mallozzi gives St. Joseph one of the league’s top outfielders. (Photo: Katie Burns)

Trumbull. Every mention of the Eagles this spring by opposing coaches has been preceded by the words “keep an eye on.” Trumbull fell a game short of the league playoffs last season, have a new coach (Cary Nadel) and a lot of young talent with players whose names are not familiar to many — for now. Marisa Valenti and St. Joseph transfer Samantha Platz lead a deep pitching staff. If the Eagles mature as quickly as most people think, watch out.

The Sleepers

Stamford. The Black Knights lost the league’s beat player, shortstop Krista Robustelli, and a good group of seniors. This is a young but promising team that should get better as the season goes on.

Greenwich. The Cardinals have a strong 1-2 punch in shortstop Rebecca DeCarlo and catcher Erin Ferguson. There is a lot of experience in a year many teams are dealing with player turnover.

Danbury. The Hatters are going to be a team no one wants to face. Consistency on defense will be a key factor to success.

St. Joseph shortstop Lauren Pitney is a dual threat with her bat and glove. (Photo: Katie Burns)
St. Joseph shortstop Lauren Pitney is a dual threat with her bat and glove. (Photo: Katie Burns)

The All-Stars

Brenna Martini, Fairfield Ludlowe. Opposing coaches may want to consider walking Martini four times a game — even with the bases loaded. She is that dangerous.

Erika Osherow, Darien. Few players are capable of carrying their teams hopes. The hard-throwing Osherow is one.

Tori Ceballos, St. Joseph. Rather than sulk when forced to share pitching duties, Ceballos worked hard to become one of the state’s most reliable hitters. Her leadership skills will prove invaluable.

Lauren Pitney, St. Joseph. Pitney is both a strong hitter and the anchor to the Cadets’ infield defense, with a cannon arm.

Ali Reilly, New Canaan. Surrounded by a young lineup, the Rams will remain in the championship hunt because of the presence of one of the league’s most reliable pitchers.

Nicole Williams, St. Joseph. Williams is poised to take the next step after a spectacular freshman season on the mound for the Cadets.

Leah Zarrilli, Trinity Catholic. The Crusaders are young and have not been on the radar for a while, but their sophomore shortstop is among the league’s most underrated players.

Colleen Adams, Stamford. The Black Knights have lost their star catcher for three weeks following toe surgery, but she is as consistent as a metronome with bat and glove.

Top Storylines

Where’s Westhill? Noticeably absent above is any mention of the league’s most consistent program the past decade. Coach Tom Pia has been blessed with having solid players to replace the loss of strong graduating classes. This year he will open with his least experienced team ever. There are some good young players, but they will need time to develop.

Spotlight On New Coaches. Fairfield Ludlowe and Trumbull are the two highest profile teams with new coaches in, respectively, Shari Paci and Cory Nadel. It will be interesting to watch the developments.

Players To Watch

Bridgeport Central: P Kendall Washington, C Maliah Pabellon, 1B Ashley Andino, 2B Taityana Whitley, SS Joy Fernandez, 3B Keila Figueroa, LF Savannah Cummings, CF Shanna-Kaye, CF Mclarty Jenkins, RF Taina Vilorio.

Danbury: P Jocelyn Perez, P Melissa Jakubowski, C Rebecca Colucci,1B Noelle Daley, 2B Hunter Eriquez, SS Julia Lener, 3B: Katie Fellmeth, LF Megan Sigillo, CF Molly Wakeman.

Darien: 2B Julia Domiziano, P Erika Osherow, C Rebecca DeMaio, SS Avery Maley, Jr. SS, 3B Kelly Vodola.

Fairfield Ludlowe: 3B Brenna Martini, CF Gillian Kennedy, LF Colleen Lambert, SS Alice Nelson, P/2B Brittany Romero, P Bridgette Anderson, C Katie DeCarlo, OF Nickey Tygesen, IF/OF Reagan Walker.

Fairfield Warde: SS Michelle Treglia, SS Kenzie Burns, C Brianna West, P Gabi Natoli, OF/1B Sarah Cotto, OF Richelle Barone, OF/IF Emma Houghton.

Greenwich: C Erin Ferguson, SS Rebecca DeCarlo, 2B Colleen Bennett, 3B Kaitlyn Gowans, OF Erin White, OF Madison Burhans, OF Jen Ambrogio.

New Canaan: 2B/3B Molly Rochlin, C Molly Keshin, 2B/SS Rachel Keshin, P/1B Ali Reilly, P/1B Jamie Schlim, C/3B Claire Conley, OF Rachel Kortman, CF Colette Pelligrini, OF Sophia Welch, OF Katerina Moore.

Norwalk: IF Tori Dugan, IF Nicole Bonanni, P Ali Brown, CF Leslie Garcia, OF Kasey Hogan, 1B Mallory Rochefort, C Sam Troetti.

Ridgefield: C Amanda Scammon, CF Shannon Taddonio, 3B Kendall Rogoff, 2B Meghan Hyatt, SS Ryen Fujitani, UTIL Sydnie DeMarco, P Kayleen Walter, P Kailey Westington.

St. Joseph: 1B Tori Ceballos, CF Mikaela Mallozzi, UTIL Sam Errico, SS Lauren Pitney, P Nicole Williams, RF Amy Chacho, 2B Katie Gardella, C Lauren Blose, C Jovanna Hillman.

Stamford: P Christina Joannou, P Sarah Stanley, C Colleen Adams, 1B Brianna Arias, 2B/LF Nicole Pease, 2B/LF Shannon Stabile, SS Kelly DiPietro, SS Ali Buzzeo, 3B Haley LaMotta, 3B Maddie Santoro, CF Lauren O’Neill, RF Maria Zecena.

Staples: CF Crissy McCarthy, 1B Katherine Friend, C/RF Emma Moskovitz, 3B Maya Mandell, P Katie Burke, LF Lindsay Kiedaisch, 2B Emily Lustbader, SS/CF Gabby Perry, P/1B Gillian Birk, IF Lily Tofel.

Trinity Catholic: P/CF Amy Hurd, SS Leah Zarrilli, P/UTIL Hannah Davis, C Kelly Sheridan, OF Erin Frederick, OF Alison Pitasi, 3B Alxis Melfi, OF Rachel Bellantoni, 1B Emily Ellis, 2B Ava Fusaro, P Samantha Calicchio.

Trumbull: C Christie Costello, SS Megan Thaler, OF Harleigh Kasczegowicz, 1B Kristine Liptack, OF Lauren Zielinski, OF Jayme Thompson, 3B Emily Clark, P Samantha Platz, P Marisa Valenti.

Westhill: 1B Kira Ramon, 2B Emma Hart, SS/3B Gabby Laconna, SS/3B Adriana Gambino, C Jordan Benzaken, OF Zoe Carillo, OF Alyssa Blank, OF Erica Gambino, OF Nicole Psichopaidas, DH Abby Curry, P Sadie Apfel, P Casey Dicene, P Kelly Tanacea.

(Teams missing did not reply to requests for information.)

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