COACH RICK BURLEY has plenty of returning talent this year, including outfielder Leah Dunne.
Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
April 10, 2017ALTON — After another solid season last year, the Prospect Mountain softball team returns seven of nine starters and is looking to make another run into the playoffs.
And in a year when teams are struggling to get outside, having veteran players can be an advantage.
"We're lucky to have a strong core of kids returning," said coach Rick Burley. "That helps, that's an advantage.
"It's going to be a tough year for everybody," the Timber Wolf coach continued. "The southern teams may have a little more of a jump.
"I have a feeling we'll start games without having been on a field," Burley added.
With seven kids returning to the starting lineup and another moving from a part time role to a full time role, the Timber Wolves certainly have plenty to build on after a 14-2 regular season last year.
"They know each other a little bit, what they're going to do," Burley said. "But we still have some holes to fill."
The seven returning starters include four seniors, two juniors and a sophomore.
Leading the way will be senior Brianna Burley, who returns to the pitching circle having fully recovered from an injury suffered during basketball season. Burley has been one of the top pitchers in Division III and will look to continue that trend this week. She also provides a big bat in the middle of the lineup.
Fellow senior Emma Hardie returns to the right side of the infield at second base and Kennedy Wright will also be on the right side of the infield, returning to play at first base. She will also see time as designated hitter.
The experienced right side of the field continues with senior Ryley Roberts returning to right field.
The other two outfield positions are held by returning juniors, with Ali Brown anchoring the outfield in center and also serving as the team's backup catcher, while Leah Dunne returns to patrol left field. Dunne brings speed to the top of the lineup while Brown will hold down the middle of the lineup with her big bat.
The other returning starter is sophomore Bekah Wheeler, who started at shortstop last year and will be returning to the position.
One of the holes the team has to fill is behind the plate, where Deanna Misiaszek graduated after starting for four years. Sophomore Mackenzie Burke saw varsity time last year and will be moving behind the plate this season.
"She's a really good catcher," Burley said. "And she'll be a consistent hitter."
BettyJane Weir and Megan Chase are both returning as seniors and are utility players, playing both infield and outfield, with Burley noting Weir has a chance to snag the third base position. Junior Anna Brassaw will also be a utility player and Meghan Sarno and Kasey LaCroix will likely be swing players between JV and varsity, with Sarno doing some pitching.
Burley and JV coach Mike Christy have only 23 kids between the two teams so numbers are tight and spring commitments always make things even tougher.
"Spring is always tough because there's always all kinds of stuff," Burley said. "And smaller numbers makes it tough.
"And it's the toughest schedule we've ever had," the Timber Wolf coach added. Mascenic has been added to the schedule along with a second game with Franklin while games with Farmington, Newfound and Inter-Lakes have been removed.
Prospect will have two games each with Winnisquam, Somersworth, Franklin, Mascenic, Gilford, Campbell and Raymond as well as single games against Berlin and Belmont.
The season was set to begin after deadline against Somersworth (April 12) and is slated to continue on Friday, April 14, at Franklin at 4 p.m. The team returns home to host Franklin on Monday, April 17, and Mascenic on Wednesday, April 19, both at 4 p.m. The team's original first game on April 10 at Winnisquam was postponed until April 26.
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at 569-3126 or firstname.lastname@example.org.