High hopes for girls
When looking at the Whitehall softball team, an objective observer might conclude that they have the potential to be one of the best teams in the conference this season.
That conclusion is bolstered by a number of facts, primarily their experience and talent. The Zephyrs return seven starters from a team that went 13-8 last year and made it to the district playoffs. Of those seven, four of those players have been four-year starters.
Additionally, they have seven seniors, with seniors Madison Kelly and Lauren Mortimer earning all-league honorable mentions last year. Kelly was also an all-area selection.
Yes, the potential for making a bid as one of the best teams in the conference is certainly within their grasp.
Still, head coach Alexis Berg-Townsend knows that the game is won between the white lines, and they'll have to execute and avoid any distractions that could derail their game if they are to realize that potential.
"We definitely have the talent and experience to play well," said Berg-Townsend. "The goal is just going to be consistency."
However, with a senior-laden team, optimism is sure to abound. That group of battle-tested seniors include Andrea Emery, Braylynn Reimer, Molly Graveno, Kelly Erie, Kelly Spanitz, Mortimer and Kelly.
That experience, along with their veteran leadership, should bode well for the upcoming season. It will also help them handle any situation on the diamond, said Berg-Townsend.
"When they get in a tight situation, they'll know how to pull through," said Berg-Townsend who is entering her sixth year as the head coach.
Emery returns to the hill. She will begin her second season as the ace and will bring poise and presence to the mound.
Berg-Townsend said that Emery has the determination and drive to be one of the best hurlers in the league. She has put in the time during the off-season and is ready to make her claim as one of the best pitchers in the area.
"Andrea has worked hard," said Berg-Townsend. "This is her team; this is her year."
Her commitment to making her senior season memorable is underscored by her preparation, said Berg-Townsend, noting she is "farther along this season than she was last year."
Emery has an attitude that clearly makes a statement.
"It's her team and her games to pitch," said Berg-Townsend.
The line-up is potent with Kelly serving as the leadoff hitter and table setter. The senior shortstop led the team in a number of offensive categories last year, including runs batted in, runs scored, and on-base percentage.
"She's the catalyst," said Berg-Townsend. "She gets things going,"
Right behind her will be Mortimer who can also wield the lumber (make that aluminum), and will be another important cog in the line-up.
First baseman Reimer will supply some power, while junior catcher Regan Bortz has also demonstrated the ability to consistently drive in runs.
The Zephs also boast talented seniors Graveno, Erie and Kelly Spanitz who will also be major contributors in the line-up and should help the Zephs vie for a playoff berth again.
Berg-Townsend said that maintaining a level of consistency at the plate is the key to their fortunes.
"If we can hit like I know we can hit, then we'll have a fun and exciting season," Berg-Townsend said.
Additionally, they'll have sophomores Allison Beltz, Karly Klein, and Abigail Nguyen who all saw varsity action last year and are expected to make significant contributions this year.
Some promising newcomers include junior Alexa Fitzgerald, along with freshman Jillian Rex, Julia Solderitch and Rachel Spanitz.
Berg-Townsend expects all of them to play a role in the season as well as providing depth off the bench.
Defensively, the Zephs should be solid again with Bortz, Emery, Kelly, Mortimer and Julia Solderitch in center giving them strength up the middle.
The regular season opens March 28 at Northampton Area High School as the Zephs look to capitalize on that potential.