Northeast area schools ready for softball season

A look at how local schools will perform in the softball season.

Franklin Towne Charter hopes to bring home the Public League crown again. TIMES FILE PHOTO

Northeast Philadelphia was once again a hot spot for softball in 2017.

The Public League champion came from the area, and three teams in the Catholic League enjoyed great seasons a year ago. Also, in the Catholic Academies League, Nazareth enjoyed a strong season.

This year could be as good or even better, as many teams return solid squads loaded with quality hitters and crafty pitchers.

Here is a look at how the local teams are shaping up in softball.

CATHOLIC ACADEMIES

Nazareth Academy

A year ago, the Pandas won 10 games and this year the goal is to make even more noise. It will be tough because the league is as tough as ever.

A strength of the Pandas should be on the bump, where Natalie Minitti and Devyn Dydak will both serve as pitchers. Minitti will play first when she’s not pitching, and Dydak will be in the outfield.

Other players who could make an impact for Nazareth are second baseman Megan Dignam, shortstop Mackenzie Tobler and third baseman Cait Ferri.

It won’t be easy to improve on last year, but there’s enough talent to make some noise.

“If they play the game the right way, a lot of good things will happen,” Nazareth coach Danielle Vittitow said. “We have multiple returning varsity starters who know the program and will be able to lead the team to success. Another strength we hope to utilize this year is speed on the base paths. Combining our positives of speed and big bats, we are looking to have a strong and successful year.

“Their offseason hard work should pay off during the season. We are looking to make strides each and every game. We have a group of work horses who want to grow, get better, and are willing to learn. The passion they have for the game is great to see and that will hopefully show in the future outlook of this team.”

CATHOLIC LEAGUE

Archbishop Ryan

The Ragdolls didn’t win another Catholic League championship last year, but despite having a young team, they clawed their way to the semifinals and a 14-win season.

That run could lead to success this year.

The team will be led by catcher Haley Burns, infielders Katelyn Ostaszewski, Meghan Kidd, Ava Brackoneicki, Meghan Palmer and Haley Cottalo, outfielders Annie Cashman, Erin Woltemate, Victoria Slook, Kate Connely and Lauren Hagy, and pitchers Caitlyn Elliott, Sarah Vargas and Dana Bell.

Ryan is traditionally one of the best teams in the area and this could once again be a special season.

“I’m happy with our pitching and defense through the preseason,” said Ryan coach John Kidwell.

“This will be a very competitive league again with a lot of quality pitching. If our young pitchers can keep us in the game, then we have a chance to compete with anyone.”

Little Flower

The Sentinels made the Catholic League playoffs a season ago in a season that saw the team carry many underclassmen. That experience could pay off in a big way this year.

Leading the way will be pitcher Makenzie Paxson, who served as the top pitcher a year ago when she was a freshman. She’ll be supported by center fielder Nicole Lemongelli, who is coming off a torn ACL, infielder Courtney Sherwood and third baseman Virginia “Ginny” Britto, who also can pitch.

The improvement the Sentinels made last year could be the stepping stone to a memorable 2018 season.

“We’re strong at pitching and defense,” said Little Flower coach Mark Fusetti. “Our top players are sophomores and they will only get better. We have a great combination of young talent and senior players led by Nicole Lemongelli. If our defense stays strong, we will have a great playoff run this year.”

St. Hubert

The Bambies were one win away from bringing home a Catholic League championship last year. They then went on to win the city championship and made it to the state playoffs.

Like the other Catholic League schools, Hubert returns a lot of talent and that means expectations are high.

Leading the way will be last year’s top pitcher, Lindsey Davies, who returns for her junior campaign. She’ll also see time at first base. When she’s in the infield, third baseman Jordan Frye will serve as the pitcher. Other infielders include second baseman Avery Hibbs and shortstop Erin Hogan. Other contributors will be catcher Liz Siravo and outfielder Annie Wolfe.

With the returning talent, there’s a chance the Bambies can return to the biggest game in the Catholic League this year.

“Our experience in the circle and the infield will make us a very difficult team to play,” said Bambies coach Dave Schafer. “We look to carry on the tradition of St. Hubert softball by being one of the top teams in the Catholic League.”

PUBLIC LEAGUE

Abraham Lincoln

The Railsplitters improved in 2017, finishing with seven wins. That could be hard to replicate this year because the bulk of the lineup is filled with newcomers to the program.

One returning player is their ace pitcher, Nicolette Dagostino, a junior. Her cather, senior Miranda Linton, also returns to the mix. The rest of the squad will consist of new players who will do their best to learn on the fly, so Dagostino will be the key to the team’s success.

“Nicolette is returning for her third season,” said Lincoln coach Paul Cammarota. She’s even stronger and more confident than before.

“(This will be) totally rebuilding this year with only one true starter returning. We will have to learn a lot with our ninth- and 10th-graders, who are playing for the first time.

FRANKLIN TOWNE CHARTER

The Warriors were one of the top teams in the city last year, finishing 11–0 in division play and winning another Public League championship.

Repeating will be a challenge because the Warriors come in with some new faces, but they still should be among the elite in the Public League.

The team will rely heavily on the arm of pitcher Camrie Hogwood. Two other leaders for the Warriors will be first baseman Adrianna Butterline and outfielder Kadirah Williams.

Last year’s coach, Lauren Esposito, has stepped down, so Lindsey Runyen and Paige Lang will serve as coaches. They’ll have a lot of help from the veteran players.

“This year’s team has a lot of leaders on and off the field,” Runyen said. “The girls work hard to achieve success and like to have fun along the way.

“Our team is looking forward to another great year. This team is driven and has their heart set on winning.”

George Washington

Last year was a down one for the Eagles. They won just two games in league play, but as they were taking their lumps, some of the players got valuable experience. The hope is those losses can turn into wins this year.

Three players who will lead the way are Emani Goode, Sam Vonbaur and Ireland Smith, who starred as a point guard on the basketball team.

If the Eagles want to win, they’ll have to rely on their veterans to lead the way.

“(We have ) strong senior leadership and a team with a positive attitude,” said Washington coach Ted Koc. “I am looking for the team to improve and compete on a daily basis.”

Northeast

While the Vikings were competitive a season ago, they also were very young. This year, the Vikings return seven starters, including three seniors who hope to end their high school careers on a positive note. Those seniors are outfielders Laura Crespo and Jala Lewis, and second baseman Massiel Del Orbe. Also providing leadership will be junior first baseman Jenna Misztuk. The Vikings will also depend upon a strong sophomore class, which includes pitcher Hannah McIllmurray, shortstop Tamara Jenkins, third baseman Arianna Quinoa and outfielder Alyssa Velazquez.

Coach Tom Kane hopes the experience will pay off, especially as the season heats up.

“We’re still a young team, but experienced,” Kane said. “We have spent most of this rotten weather in the batting nets working on our offense.”

Philadelphia Academy Charter

The Chargers enjoyed a great 2017 campaign, losing just two games. However, one of those setbacks was in the Public League semifinals. This year, the goal is to win a few more games, and they have a senior class that could do just that.

Brianna Donaghy returns at catcher to lead the Chargers. She’ll work with shortstop Hannah Higgins, pitcher Alison Kelble and third baseman Madison Madara.

Coach Steve Suplick hopes he can ride the seniors’ leadership to a Public League championship.

“The backbone and strength to our team is our leadership,” Suplick said. “The four senior captains, Brianna Donaghy, Hannah Higgins, Alison Kelble and Madison Madara, have taken it upon themselves to keep this team working together and are great role models to the younger players on the team. We play the game the right way and focus on doing the small things well. Our fielding is a very strong aspect to our team along with the pitching from Alison Kelble.

“We have one goal in mind and that is to win the last game.” ••