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Panther softball ready for new season

by Jeff Lajoie
Sports Reporter

Senior Kassie Malm and the Panthers are ready for a new season in Moultonboro. FIle Photo. (click for larger version)
April 09, 2012
MOULTONBORO — With a strong returning core of four seniors, Moultonboro Academy softball coach Lindsay Bliznik hopes her Panthers can seamlessly integrate a large contingent of underclassmen into the mix this spring, as MA looks to improve in the Division IV standings following a 7-10 season in 2011.

"The seniors are a really fun group," said Bliznik. "I've had them for three years, I kind of started with them as a coach. But they're really doing a good job incorporating everyone into the team because we have a lot of young players who are new to varsity."

Seniors Kelsi West (second base), Kassie Malm (center field), Kayla Kinmond (left field) and Julia Schmidt (right field) provide the backbone of the varsity squad this season, and the quartet hopes to lead MA to a playoff appearance and run during their final season on the diamond.

"What I've seen so far, I feel like we're going to be a pretty good team," said Malm, who already won a state title this year with the volleyball team. "Everyone's been communicating well which is nice for mixing the younger and older kids."

The big story this spring will be in the pitching circle, as Jenna Calzada graduated with no heir apparent in sight. Enter eighth-grader Maddy Greene, who steps in as the team's main hurler.

"It's a weird situation for me to see Moultonboro softball without pitchers," said Bliznik, who was a star pitcher during her high school career at MA. "And it's a super interesting situation to be in. Maddy is a young player but she's played ball all winter and she plays summer league ball. When you're out there as an eighth grader, facing girls four to five years older, it could be intimidating. But she's strong-minded and dedicated and she's a really talented pitcher. I don't think she's going to have any problem adjusting to varsity ball. She gets out there and throws the ball."

Juniors Erica Gilson (catcher/shortstop), Kim Delaney (third base) and Courtney Delaney (center field) will figure into the mix for the Panthers, as will sophomore Sierra Patterson, who played JV last year before coming up at the end of the season.

Three freshmen round out the roster, as Jordan Hough looks like the team's starting catcher entering the season, while Kelsey Coppinger (second base) and Rachel Bakas (first base) will also figure prominently into the squad. Bakas should get the nod at first while Hough's speed has her likely in the leadoff spot of the order, as Bliznik has had her working on drag bunting. Coppinger is also very quick and should cause havoc when she's on base.

"That's one thing we definitely have this year is speed," the coach said. "We really haven't had too much of that the last couple years."

With the seniors holding down key positions in the field, Bliznik has also been impressed with her team's fielding, as the veteran players are making smart decisions with the ball during the early going.

"That base of seniors is beginning to understand the game more and more," she explained. "They can predict situations and they're thinking ahead and talking about it. They're starting to know the philosophy rather than just going to bat or just going out to their position on the field."

The key to the season will likely depend on how quickly the bats come around however, as last year's team was a bit inconsistent offensively, which led to some lulls in the season in the wins department. Bliznik hopes added time outside due to early season warm weather will help in that department.

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