MA sophomore Maddy Greene returns to the pitching circle for her third year of varsity action. File Photo. (click for larger version)
April 14, 2014MOULTONBOROUGH – After 10 years without a postseason win, the Moultonborough Academy softball team has taken a step forward each of the last two seasons. The Panthers won home preliminary round tilts in 2012 and 2013, and with players back in key positions, the goals are only going up for head coach Lindsay Bliznik's club.
"Getting over that hump has really helped their confidence," said Bliznik of the postseason wins. "They really have this big goal of making the semifinals this year. Their experience in the tournament, that helps. The experience of the core playing together for a few years also helps. We take up kids really young to the varsity level so by the time they're juniors, they really feel like seniors, especially by the end of the year."
To find that varsity experience, look no further than the team's starting battery. Sophomore pitcher Maddy Greene is back for her third year of varsity action after bursting onto the scene as an eighth grader, while junior catcher Jordan Hough will be paired with her for the third year in a row.
"For Maddy and Jordan, they're both getting smarter with the game," explained Bliznik. "When they started out, it was kind of more pitch and catch. Last year, Maddy added more pitches and Jordan learned more about what pitches would result in what kind of things. This year, the next layer we're going to add is giving Jordan more control in calling the game. I'm hoping to hand that over to them a couple of games into the season."
Greene now has five pitches (fastball, drop, curve, rise and change) to mix up hitters, and Bliznik said the young right-hander is confident with all of those pitches.
"It's super impressive for a sophomore to be able to throw that many pitches and throw them with confidence," the coach said.
The Panthers did graduate five players from last year's team including four starters, but there are certainly a plethora of familiar faces returning. Rachel Bakas saw time in the outfield last year but makes the move over to first base this season, while junior second baseman Kelsey Coppinger returns to her starting slot on the right side of the infield.
Sophomores Danielle Harrington (left field) and Cydney Taylor (center field) also return, while juniors Meghan Kinmond and Lauren Blake are in the mix in right field.
The left side of the infield will be something to watch, as both shortstop and third base saw seniors graduate from the starting slots. Sophomore Marissa Perrotti will jump into the shortstop mix, and she's impressed during preseason at the key position. The third base duties will likely fall to either eighth-grader Alexa Price or freshman Jillian Tatro, who will also serve as the team's number two pitcher behind Greene. Sophomore Brittney Delaney (OF), who is recovering from an injury, rounds out the roster.
"I'm hoping that it will be a quick gel, that everything will come together," said Bliznik of her new additions. "They've already proven that the social division is non-existent on this team. The veteran players have taken the younger players under their wings. To have young players at the hot corner can be nerve-wracking, but from what I've seen so far, I've been very impressed. I think it's going to come with experience but both have really good head on their shoulders."
While the Panthers will hope to rely on their pitching and defense this spring, offense is a department that will need some new leaders. Twins Courtney and Kim Delaney graduated after providing the big bats in the middle of the lineup, while Erica Gilson at shortstop was another reliable stick in the order.
"The Delaneys kind of led the way last year, Erica as well, and they made us very powerful," Bliznik recalled. "I think we'll be resorting to a lot more short game this year. We've been working on bunting, slapping, trying to come up with something. We don't have those really big bats this year so we'll be focusing on executing the short game stuff to put some runs on the board."
MA's annual trip to Rhode Island in the preseason was a big success this season, as the team was able to scrimmage outside while New Hampshire was still stuck under snow.
"It was really nice," said Bliznik of the trip. "I feel like we definitely have a little bit of an advantage in that we've played a little before the season started."
The opening week schedule was still up in the air as of press time due to poor field conditions. The Panthers were slated to host Nute and Sunapee to open the schedule before visiting Newmarket on Friday.