20210410-SPT-softball

Emma Bartlett, pictured in this file photo, makes a shoestring catch during the 2019 season. Now a senior, Bartlett will serve as Keene’s number one pitcher this year.

After nearly two years, spring sports are back underway, starting next week. Let’s dive into the region’s six softball teams:

Keene

Returning senior Emma Bartlett will fill the role of the Blackbirds’ number one pitcher this year and will serve as a captain alongside classmates Laurel Clace and Maddy Miner, also key returners from the 2019 roster. Junior Maya Carey (Keene’s leading hitter in 2019 as a freshman) also returns to the diamond. Evaluating underclassman has been more of challenge this year with a limited offseason, but head coach Peter Vearling said the coaching staff has their “work cut out for us” figuring out a lineup because of the competition out of the freshmen and sophomore classes. There will be lots of opportunities for the underclassmen to compete for a spot in the batting order.

Coach: Peter Vearling (fourth year)

2019 record: 9-10

Top players lost: Courtney Dunham, Emily Richardson, Kyleigh Gordon, Brooke Oster

Top players returning: Sr. Emma Bartlett, Sr. Laurel Clace, Sr. Maddy Miner, Jr. Maya Carey

Newcomers to watch: Fr. Asianah Gostyla, So. Sydney MacLean, Fr. Makenzie Neese, Fr. Cassidy Dunham

First game: April 12 vs. Trinity HS

Coach’s thoughts:

“Us coaches are really happy with the players who are out there. It’s a great group of girls. We’re having a lot of fun with them. They’re working and they seem to have a smile on their face a lot.”

“All of us are in a tough spot having lost last season. It’s hard for me to judge how we’ll stack up against the other teams, but I will tell you this: I love the kids that we’re working with and I’m sure they’ll get out and compete and I think that eventually we’re going to be a very, very competitive team.”

“Everybody is chipping in together. It’s been a real team effort from the coaches and the players, and it’s been very enjoyable.”

Monadnock

The Huskies hope to be a force to be reckoned with in Division III this season. Monadnock lost some key pieces from the 2019 team that advanced to the state quarterfinals, and the 2020 squad, which never had the opportunity to compete, but third-year head coach Chad Beede has confidence in his roster this year, led by strong upperclassmen and a solid young core.

Coach: Chad Beede (third year)

2019 record: 12-6, lost to Berlin in NHIAA Division III quarterfinals

Top players lost: Caitlin Stearns, Isabella LeClair, Carly Ayotte, Shelby Snide, Lauryne Mason, Meghan Mecheski, Julia Konopka

Top returners: Sr. Paige Beede, Jr. Grace LeClair, Sr. Brooke Johnson, Jr. Madison Swett

Newcomers to watch: Jr. Shawn Bixby

First game: April 13 vs. Keene HS

Coach’s thoughts:

“We’re definitely going to have a learning curve because of COVID and missing the season last year. My goal is to get a good core because I’m going to have them for the next three years, so I’m excited for the future for sure.”

“The feedback that I’ve gotten from [the girls] is they’re all very excited to have a season. Obviously, it’s going to be a little different this year because we’re playing a lot of teams that we’ve never played before. But they’re all excited They’re all looking forward to the opportunity. They’re all willing to put in the hard work that it’s going to take to make us a successful team and a successful program.”

ConVal

A younger Cougars team hopes to start building a foundation of success at ConVal with head coach Amanda Hinton back at the helm after missing 2020 because of COVID protocols and also missing 2019 while she was on maternity leave. Two seniors return to provide veteran leadership and the explosive sophomores look to do some damage in their first varsity season on the diamond.

Coach: Amanda Hinton (third year)

2019 record: 2-16

Top players lost: Shannon Allen

Top returners: Sr. Anna Bartsch, Sr. Nisse Anderson

Newcomers to watch: So. Morgan Bemont, So. Kendall Sullivan, So. Lily Mandel

First game: April 14 vs. Milford HS

Coach’s thoughts:

“We have some pitching and a very decent catcher which is very exciting, and they’re all sophomores. We have the younger girls holding down some of those really important spots. … It’s going to help us grow our program in the next couple years.”

“I’m really excited. We have a lot of younger players who can help grow our program. Those younger players have been playing for quite a while and are very dedicated. I think that’ll help our team.”

“The girls are super excited to play, and I feel like we’re going to have a very successful season.”

Conant

In a year where many teams are facing uncertainty because of missing out on an entire 2020 season, the Orioles have a bit more consistency than most, bringing back seven on their starters from the 2019 season. Now juniors, that group likely will be the backbone of this Conant team as it prepares to face some of the most talented teams in the state — across any division — during the Division III postseason tournament.

Coach: Wiley Billings (fourth year)

2019 record: 8-8, lost to Belmont in first round of NHIAA Division III tournament

Top players lost: Silas Bernier, Manea Aho

Top returners: Tessa Spingola, Chelsea Dupuis, Bella Hayes, Teagan Kirby, Mylie Aho, Kaylee Karns

Newcomers to watch: Fr. Irelynd Aucoin, Fr. Maddie Bergeron, Fr. Graecen Kirby

First game: April 16 vs. Wilton-Lyndeborough HS

Coach’s thoughts:

“This is probably my best all-around team I’ve had in a while. The reason why it’s the best all-around teams is because I have a lot of returning players. I had seven freshmen starting (in 2019).”

“It’s all going to depend on pitching. In this division, if you have a shutdown pitcher, you can go a long way. … Every coach wants to get to the final four and win a state title, so that’s what their aim is.”

Fall Mountain

The Wildcats are fielding a roster with zero previous varsity experience, partially thanks to missing the 2020 season because of the COVID pandemic. Kelly Ross, who played JV softball as a sophomore in 2019, will likely fill the “veteran” role as the lone senior on the roster. The rest of the Wildcats roster — heavy with underclassmen — will use the regular season to build up some varsity experience before the postseason tournament, where they will face other talented Division III opponents across the state.

Coach: Kevin Hicks (third year)

2019 record: 8-12, lost to White Mountains in first round of NHIAA Division III tournament

Top players lost: Chloe Vogel, Nicole Limoges, Savanah Wilson

Top returners: None

Newcomers to watch: Sr. Kelly Ross, So. Melodee Chambers

First game: April 12 at Newport

Coach’s thoughts:

“It’s going to be a learning year. We’re very young. I will say, it’s a great group of kids to work with. … We have a lot of kids that haven’t played for two years, some even longer. So, it’s just going to be a learning year and it’s fine. … We just have to keep working on the positives.”

“Their attitudes have been fantastic. They’re coming every day, they’re working hard every day. Our motto is: every time you step on the field, get better than you were the day before. And they’re grasping a hold of that.”

Hinsdale

The Pacers plan to continue to reap the benefits of Angelina Nardolillo returning to Hinsdale. The senior will serve as the team’s number one pitcher. Joining her are Delaney Wilcox and Olivia Pangelinan, all basketball teammates fresh off a 2020 state title. Head coach Terry Bonnette expects the regular season to be difficult — the regional schedule has Hinsdale playing some upper-division teams — but he feels the challenge will be good for the group heading into the Division IV tournament.

Coach: Terry Bonnette (second year after returning from a short hiatus as head coach)

2019 record: 8-8, lost to Farmington in first round of NHIAA Division IV tournament

Top players lost: Sydney Martelle, Shelby Martelle, Hannah Lynch, Kelsi Clement, Breanna Lavasseur

Top returners: Angelina Nardolillo, Delaney Wilcox, Kristin Davis, Olivia Pangelinan

Newcomers to watch: Adeline Nardolillo, Brooke Pagach, Sara Miller

First game: April 12 at Mascenic Regional HS

Coach’s thoughts:

“We had a good turnout this year. Freshmen and seniors. We have sophomores and juniors as well. I expect that all of the girls will be able to contribute one way or another.”

“I think we should be solid. We have a tough schedule, which helped us in basketball and hopefully will help is in softball. But we should be solid.”

“They’re excited to go, and I think we’ll have a good season. They’re optimistic and positive and I am as well. We haven’t had a lot of practice time … so I don’t know what to expect right off, but I think as the season goes on, we’re definitely going to get stronger and better.”

{div class=”asset-tagline text-muted”}Chris Detwiler can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1411, or cdetwiler@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @Chris — Detwiler.{/div}