The usual suspects are lining up for the 2019 softball season — like defending state champion Fort Ann — but don’t be too surprised to see some fresh faces near the top at the end.
Without a dominant pitcher in the league, the Foothills Council race promises to be more wide open than in past years. South Glens Falls rolled to a 20-0 start last season before falling to Averill Park in the Section II Class A final, but the Bulldogs lost a lot to graduation. They’ll face challenges in the North Division from always-tough Schuylerville, last year’s Class B sectional finalist, and a veteran Glens Falls team.
In the Adirondack League, perennial powers Fort Ann, Lake George and Salem remain dangerous. Fort Ann did not even win the league last year, but the Cardinals still won their eighth straight Section II title in Class D behind the pitching of state Co-Player of the Year Kayla Bailey, who returns. Lake George won the league title, and Salem was the top seed in the D’s before falling in extra innings in the semis to resurgent Whitehall. But be on the lookout for teams like Corinth, Hartford-Fort Edward, Whitehall and North Warren to be in the mix.
Greenwich hopes to return to the top of the Wasaren League, though Tamarac and Mechanicville always make it difficult in the Hudson Division. Saratoga Catholic rose to the top of the Battenkill Division last season and wants to stay there.
In Section VII, Bolton-Schroon Lake and Johnsburg hope to make an impact in a Class D that has been dominated by Crown Point.
Glens Falls: With 10 of 12 players returning with varsity experience, the Indians have a veteran lineup from a team that went .500 last year, led by senior pitchers Mattie Benway and Emma Chrzanowski. Veteran coach Craig Archambault also has solid bats returning with Felicity Williams, Callie Woodell and Lexi Cutter leading the way. Glens Falls is also strong up the middle defensively with Ella Wolfstich (catcher), Stephanie Meehan (shortstop) and Cutter (center field).
Hudson Falls: New coach Kelly McWilliams takes over from Deb Ferranti, who retired after 30 years as the Tigers’ coach. Only one senior — pitcher Grace Davis — returns for the Tigers, who lost one of their best hitters in Kate LaPan, but Davis has a big bat. She is joined as a returner by infielder Hailie Casey and outfielders Danielle Hogan, Olivia Lewis and Olivia Suckman. With a number of experienced travel-ball players, Hudson Falls hopes to be competitive.
Queensbury: The Spartans lost their entire infield from a year ago to graduation, including pitcher Jordan Knapp, and several strong bats from a team that went 8-10 overall. Coach Laura Laramie will start freshman Alexis Rogers at pitcher, with junior Samantha Brayton taking over behind the plate. Rogers has a strong bat, and Brayton and returning outfielder Jasmin Pepe are also consistent hitters.
Schuylerville: The Black Horses rolled to an 18-3 record last season, falling to eventual state champ Ichabod Crane in the Section II finals. They also lost Caitlin Kelleher behind the plate, so pitcher Teagan Andrews — a second-team all-state Class B star — will have to break in a new catcher. Coach Katie Bottisti expects another good season with infielders Molly Elder, Hannah Klingebiel and Sydney Warmt and outfielder Grace Pelletier-Hoblock returning.
South Glens Falls: The Bulldogs are in a bit of a rebuilding mode this season, but for longtime coach Laurie Ciuffetelli, it’s reloading time. They have fewer players with varsity experience this season, including pitcher, catcher and the entire right side of the field. With the battery of Maddy Capozucca-to-Hannah Mosher gone, sophomore Hannah Breen takes over at pitcher, throwing to either Demi Kellogg or Zoe Lanfear. Haylee Scarincio (third), Leah Vanderwarker (shortstop) and Kasen Lemay (center field) return. The newcomers were all successful on JV last season, so Ciuffetelli expects them to step up at the next level.
Argyle: The Scots have a new coach in former Argyle pitching ace Beth Ellis, and she has a mix of veteran and new players who bring speed and drive to the team. Argyle hopes to bounce back from a winless campaign behind the sophomore battery of pitcher Gretta Schneider and catcher Bryanne Mattison.
Corinth: The Tomahawks return everyone from a team that finished 11-9 last season, and that means a deep lineup with exceptional fielding and pitching. Senior Chesney York is back in the pitching circle after recording 138 strikeouts, with Alexa Abbatantuono back behind the plate. Mya Manning has outstanding range in the outfield and a powerful bat, as does second baseman Elizabeth Jensen.
Fort Ann: The Cardinals went 19-4 last year and pulled off a pair of stunners in the state final four to claim the fifth Class D state title in program history. Coach Jason Humiston lost only two starters — Renee Allen and Raegan Thorpe — to graduation, and the Cardinals return senior ace Kayla Bailey, along with Sarah Paige (shortstop), Amanda Godfrey (center field) and Faith Lehoisky, who replaces Thorpe behind the plate. Fort Ann relies on all of its players to be successful, and many of them are battle-tested veterans, which will be a good thing as the Cardinals expect to get every team’s best shot.
Granville: New coach Brie Gould has four returning players from a Golden Horde team that went 10-10 last year, including shortstop Lexy Zovistoski and catcher Rachel Pietryka. Sophomores Brynn Duquette and Haley Corlew fill big gaps at first and second base, respectively. Brynna Sady takes over at pitcher and could split time with Corlew.
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Hadley-Luzerne: The Eagles lost eight players to graduation from a team that won three games last year, but coach Jenn Mann can build around a trio of returnees: Kassidy Plummer (shortstop), Taylor Martin (third) and Delaney Moulton (pitcher). Alyssa Starzec steps in as a power hitter and at catcher, Cassidy Carpenter brings speed in the outfield and on the bases, and Jane Broekhuizen has a good stretch at first.
Hartford-Fort Edward: H-FE went 8-8 in its first season as a merged program and will have a very experienced lineup, including seven returning seniors, and a new coaching staff. Alex Wade and Rylie Liebig will split time at pitcher and shortstop, with Cami Rogers behind the plate and Hailey Barker moving over to first base. South High transfer Mattie Viele adds another pitching arm and she can play multiple positions. Kayleigh Wade and Kathryn Smith provide speed at the top of the order.
Lake George: The Warriors have made the Section II final four for the last three seasons, and coach Kyle Manny’s club hopes to continue that success with a lineup that lost six seniors to graduation from a 16-3 team. Senior Rebecca Jaeger, a third-team all-state Class C pitcher, returns for her fifth season as a starter, but will need players to step up to replace last season’s big bats. Shortstop Rachel Jaeger and outfielders Alysia Kane and Julia Heunemann return, along with pitcher/infielder Tyler Bergman, who missed her freshman season with an injury.
North Warren: With several returning starters, the Cougars are hoping to turn things around from a 5-12 season last year. They are sparked by the battery of pitcher Olivia Viele and catcher Jodi Bartlett, and the play of Sydney Gagnon at shortstop. Along with outfielder Eliza Brown, they can all handle themselves at the plate. Six seniors give coaches Chris Jay and Deb Varsames experience to work with.
Salem: Stacey Riche takes over the Generals’ coaching reins from William Moore, who helped turn Salem into a sectional contender after two decades of obscurity. The Generals went 15-4 last season, but lost Lauren Christensen — their catcher, top slugger and first-team all-state Class D selection — to graduation. They will build around fifth-year varsity pitcher Kyndra Riche. Her sister, Blake Riche, will split time at shortstop and catcher, and Tori Cary (first) and Jocelyn Keys (third) also return to the infield. An influx of young talent makes the Generals very versatile on defense.
Warrensburg: The Burghers return a solid battery with Mikayla Rothermel throwing to Bella DeAmelia, and Sophie Reed is back from shoulder surgery and could also see some innings at pitcher. Dianne Curtis (shortstop) and Megan Hughes (center field) provide more senior leadership and strong bats. Sara Langworthy (first) and Kaylee Olden (third) are also expected to fare well at the plate, but Warrensburg will miss injured shortstop Nayana DeAmelia.
Whitehall: The Railroaders reached the Section II finals for the first time, upsetting Salem in the semis before falling to Fort Ann to end at 15-6. However, Whitehall has a big hole to fill at pitcher, where Hannah Bascue graduated and took her big bat with her. Still, eighth-grader Madison Gould is back and could split time with classmate Vinna Jensen in the pitching circle, and they will work with senior catcher Jess Moore. Also returning are infielders Kyrie Smith, Kennedy O’Dell and Hailey Taylor, and outfielder Emily Smith.
Greenwich: The Witches have been in the sectional mix for nearly all of coach Greg McGuirk’s 10-year tenure, and this season should be no exception. Pitcher Lily McCauliffe was a revelation in a 15-7 season as an eighth-grader, and she still has the luxury of throwing to Section II all-star Courtney Fraher behind the plate. Though Greenwich lost some key players to graduation, McGuirk expects capable young athletes to step up and fill the gaps again to continue the Witches’ tradition.
Hoosic Valley: The Indians are looking to replace key players in the outfield and at shortstop from a team that finished 8-10 overall. Shannon Brown, Hollis Guilianelle and Emma Scofield may share pitching duties, with Alex Rifenburg returning at catcher. Scofield could be the new shortstop for coach Blake Bochette. Samantha Finkle and Ariyana Brehm also return to the infield.
Saratoga Catholic: The Saints enjoyed a solid season under first-year coach Brett Simpson last year, going 10-8 and reaching the league championship game. Most of that club returns for Spa Catholic this season. Sophomore pitcher Molly O’Reilly is back, and she will throw to catcher Calleigh Sisk, a seventh-grader who looks strong. The infield of Julia Murdick, Megan Cornell and Emy Murray also returns.
Bolton-Schroon Lake: Coach Melanie Persons said the B-SL program is in a rebuilding mode after losing six starters to graduation. However, she has a solid group of veterans to build around, and the newcomers moving up bring strong bats and defensive ability. Senior Lily Slyman takes over at pitcher from the graduated Abi Belrose. Sienna Secor (catcher) and Molly Showers (second) return, while Maria Baker (shortstop), Kate Van Auken (third) and Harley Macri (first) are newcomers moving in.
Johnsburg: The Jaguars went 14-3 record last season and lost only one key starter, Taylor Dwyer, to graduation. The all-senior battery of pitcher Mallory Pierson and catcher Khaleah Cleveland return, along with classmates Courtney Cavanaugh (third) and Ryan Riedinger (outfield). Sophomore Aileen Stevens is back at shortstop for Johnsburg, which expects to contend in Section VII.
Ticonderoga: The Sentinels lost some important players to graduation, but coach Eric Mullen can build around the senior quartet of shortstop Emily Purkey, catcher Saidi St. Andrews, outfielder Chloe Rocque and versatile Lauren Dixon. Anna Whitman and Samantha Montville may split time in the pitching circle, with Jade Charboneau moving to the middle infield.