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2018 Mercury-Area Softball Preview

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Boyertown

Boyertown’s Kylie Hertzler (34) celebrates her three run homer with her teammates duringa  game against Upper Merion last season. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media File)

Head coach: Kim Musselman, second season.

Last year’s record: 10-6 Pioneer Athletic Conference, 13-7 overall. (District 1 Class 6A playoff qualifier).

Players to watch: Seniors: Veronica Maryanski, IF; Allison Melahn, P/OF; Naiya Murray, OF. Junior: Kylie Hertzler, C.

Outlook: The Bears will have a much different look in the infield following the graduation of Mercury All-Area First Teamer Sarah Reinert at third base, First Teamer Kody Streeter at first base and Alyssa Acker at shortstop. Albright commit Melahn should be reliable in the circle while sophomores Caitlin Keenan and Alexandria Schaefer look promising in relief. “While it is always difficult to replace a strong group of graduating players, we are returning starters at a few key positions from last year’s team,” said Musselman. “We are also excited by the success some of the younger girls had when given the opportunity last year and the improvement we have seen in them over the winter.”

Daniel Boone

Head coach: Lee Trythall, third season.

Last year’s record: 7-3 Berks Conference I; 11-10 overall. (District 3-5A second round).

Players to watch: Seniors: Sydney Hayes, CF; Heather Hall, P. Sophomore: Liz Nitka, 3B.

Outlook: Trythall experienced exceptional growth in his second season at the helm in 2017, turning around a Blazer team that had finished 3-7 in Berks Conference I the season prior. The combination of Villanova commit Hayes and promising sophomore Nitka should provide Boone with some reliable offense while Hall takes charge in the circle. Exeter has had a firm grasp on Berks Conference I the past two years and should be the favorite to rise to the top again.

Hill School

Head coach: Kristen Walter, second season.

Last year’s record: 3-5 Mid-Atlantic Prep League, 9-7 overall. (PAISAA runner-up).

Players to watch: Juniors: Meg Dempsey, P/OF; Alexa Giacche, C/SS.

Outlook: The Blues saved their best ball for last in 2017, pulling off a pair of unforeseen wins in the PA Independent Schools Athletic Association (PAISAA) playoffs before falling to Penn Charter in the title game. Gone are key contributors Kylie McKee and Kelly Ebner to graduation, but Dempsey returns in the circle to head an inexperienced team. “We’ve got a young team, but a determined team,” said Walter. “Last year, we had an unexpected run at the state championship and the girls are hoping to get there again this year.”

Methacton

Methacton’s Aubrey Seal, front, is congratulated by Paulina Lowery (27) while Megan Stauffer trails after Dani Duda knocked the two of them in with a two-run single during a game last season. (Sam Stewart – Digital First Media)

Head coach: Cathy Miller, 37th season.

Last year’s record: 6-10 PAC, 6-14 overall.

Players to watch: Seniors: Aubrey Seal, P; Sam Weil-Kasper, C; Emily Kuberski, OF. Juniors: Ashley Narke, P/OF; Abby Penjuke, SS; Taylor Angelillis, 3B. Sophomore: Caroline Pellicano, P/1B.

Outlook: Coming off just the third losing season in program history, Miller and the Warriors are licking their chops to get the season underway. And rightfully so. Seal, coming off rotator cuff surgery last season, will take on pitching duties once again this spring at the head of a Methacton roster filled with experienced upperclassmen. Seal’s return along with the maturation of her teammates “should go a long way toward helping the Warriors improve on last season,” said Miller. “The team is excited to get the season started.”

Norristown

Head coach: Me’Lisa Morgan, first season.

Last year’s record: 2-14 PAC, 4-15 overall.

Players to watch: Seniors: Shephanie Orman, P; Ashley Kinsey, C. Juniors: Mya Humphries, 3B; Alia Fisher, 2B; Marissa Dell, 1B/P. Sophomore: Bailee Hendricks, SS/OF.

Outlook: The Eagles took their lumps in their first season joining the PAC — losing their first nine games before edging one out over fellow newcomer Upper Merion midway through the year. Now they turn to new coaching and new leadership with Morgan. Norristown will have several options at pitcher along with plenty of promising newcomers eager to hit the ground running with the program. “We have a core group of returning players, and strong group of freshman whom I am looking to get put in and play right away,” said Morgan. “While there may be some growing pains throughout the season, we are vowing to be relentless in our efforts every single game and practice.”

Owen J. Roberts

Head coach: Jen Beaver, third season.

Last year’s record: 12-4 PAC, 15-7 overall. (Lost to North Penn in District 1-6A second round).

Players to watch: Seniors: Darby Stuart, 1B; Rylie Hijosh, OF. Juniors: Madison Twaddell, OF; Casey Walker, C. Sophomore: Ally Maupay, P.

Outlook: The Wildcats will have some major holes to fill this spring following the departure of five talented seniors, including three-year starter Camryn Glenn and pitcher Brittney Dellaquila. Maupay looks poised to make an impact in the circle, coming off a season where she posted a 1.55 ERA while All-Area selection Walker (.522 batting average, 20 RBI) and Stuart will be at the top of the hitting order. “Though we lost a talented senior class and a three-year starter, we have a strong group of upperclassmen,” said Beaver. “We also have a talented group of newcomers who are eager to play. With tough competition in our league, we know that we can’t take a game off.”

Perkiomen Valley

Perkiomen Valley’s Ashley Bangert slides into home, completing an inside-the-park home run. (Sam Stewart – Digital First Media)

Head coach: Joe Bogus, first season.

Last year’s record: 12-4 PAC, 22-6 overall. (PAC champion, District 1-6A runner-up, PIAA-6A qualifier).

Players to watch: Seniors: Jess Oltman, P/1B; Alex Vullings, OF. Juniors: Ashley Bangert, 3B; Sela Fusco, OF; Jordan Sell, SS.

Outlook: With 25 years of head coaching experience — 24 spent at Phoenixville — former varsity assistant Bogus takes over after the departure of head coach Dan McLaughlin. His first step will be the tall task of replacing All-State/All-Area pitcher Abby Wild, lost to graduation from last year’s state playoff contender along with Gillian Berrie. Oltman should get the majority of the work in the circle, reminiscent of her older sister, Emily Oltman (‘16) who went on to play at Rider University. “The PAC has always been a competitive league,” said Bogus. “In order to be successful, you have to practice each and every day how you intend to play in the face of that tough competition. We are looking forward to a successful season, but we know our success will only come from hard work and positive actions on and off the field.”

Phoenixville

Head coach: Grace Henderson, second season.

Last year’s record: 9-7 PAC, 12-9 overall. (District 1-5A qualifier).

Players to watch: Senior: Susan Duncan, 3B. Juniors: Katie Rutledge, 2B; Emma Rakowski, SS. Sophomore: Rebecca Cooper, C. Freshmen: Kendall Brown, P; Courtney Gable, P.

Outlook: Henderson’s first year at the helm proved successful as the Phantoms finished above .500 overall for the first time in almost a decade. Now, she’ll have the tall task of replacing eight graduated players, including Jessica Eldridge in the circle. Phoenixville had a strong 2017 showing in the PAC’s Frontier Division, where they finished 7-3 to secure the No. 2 seed. “We have many players that I am sure will make the most of the opportunity to play this season,” said Henderson. “We are looking to build on last season’s success and make it to districts and states.”

Pope John Paul II

Head coach: Amanda Knight, fourth season.

Last year’s record: 6-10 PAC, 10-11 overall. (District 1-4A qualifier).

Players to watch: Seniors: Alexandra Szpindor, P; Gabrielle Simms, 2B; Nicole Bowen, Utility; Hope Robinson, 3B; Marie Cotellese, Utility.

Outlook: The Golden Panthers ended the regular season on a five-game winning streak before falling to eventual champ Upper Perkiomen in the opening round of the District 1-4A playoffs. That late spark should bode well for a PJP team that will be looking to replace shortstop and steady hitter Amanda Butera this spring. The lineup boasts plenty of pop and depth, says Knight, including the addition of promising underclassmen Faith Heyser, Ashley Haggerty and Dani Dare. “With many of our starting lineup returning to PJP we are looking to be even better this year,” said Knight. “The three captains (Szpindor, Simms, and Bowen) are working hard to get everyone excited and in midseason condition prior to the first game against Pottstown on March 28. There is a lot of strength in all of our players who are able to move around and play multiple positions.”

Pottsgrove

Head coach: Jessica Norris, second season.

Last year’s record: 7-9 PAC, 8-12 overall.

Players to watch: Seniors: Kira Livezey, P/OF; Rayna Markle, P/INF. Juniors: Kelsey Hochstuhl, 3B; Olivia Klaptosky, OF.

Outlook: The Falcons lost four of their final five games to end what was a promising season in 2017. Livezey spent some quality time in the circle as a junior last season, that after filling during an injury-plagued season for the Falcons in 2015. She, along with Markle, will be among the elder spokeswomen on an otherwise young, untested Falcon squad following the graduation of four senior starters. “This year, Pottsgrove is a young team that has a unique combination of returning players and first-year players,” said Norris. “The team has 14 players consisting of seven freshmen, three sophomores, two juniors and two seniors.”

Pottstown

Head coach: Jon McKee, first season.

Last year’s record: 0-16 PAC, 0-17 overall.

Players to watch: Seniors: Gianna Epps, SS/OF/C; Kat Kincade, P/3B, 1B. Junior: ME Gerry, 3B. Sophomore: Caitlyn Mattingly, P.

Outlook: McKee takes over a Trojan program whose last win came in May of the 2015 season. Since, Pottstown is 0-40 overall, coming off consecutive winless seasons. Hope springs anew, though, as Pottstown introduced a Middle School program this season, which should be the building blocks of a brighter future. This season, Epps returns atop the batting order while Kincade will take over pitching duties following the departure of Alivia Lopez. “The team is continuously making great strides of improvement which will reward us when it comes to game day,” said McKee. “This being my first official year as head coach, I am looking forward to spreading passion for softball throughout the Pottstown community.”

Spring-Ford

Spring-Ford second baseman Julia Heine throws to first to complete the 5-4-3 double play during a game last season. (Sam Stewart – Digital First Media)

Head coach: Tim Hughes, 21st season.

Last year’s record: 15-1 PAC, 23-5 overall. (District 1-6A, PIAA-6A semifinalist).

Players to watch: Juniors: Sam Lindsay, P; Julia Heine, 2B; Maddy Little, OF. Sophomores: Ashley DellaGuardia, 1B; Maddie Cortino, C.

Outlook: Despite an unforgettable run in 2017, the Rams never hoisted any hardware after falling in the semifinal round of the PAC, District 1-6A and PIAA-6A playoffs. Now, Spring-Ford turns to its youth amid a roster overhaul following the graduation of All-Area Player of the Year Megan Kern as well as First Teamers Maggie McConney and Morgan Maziarz. Lindsay and Little were key contributors for Spring-Ford last season and will no doubt be expected to step into major leadership roles this spring. “With the loss of a ton of talented players that made it to the state semis, we have a lot of untested young new players,” said Hughes. “We’re just looking to improve throughout the year to be able to play in some big games at the end of the season.”

Upper Perkiomen

Members of the Upper Perkiomen softball team gather at home plate with the trophy and their medals after winning the District One Class 4A title last season. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

Head coach: Dean Sullivan, third season.

Last year’s record: 14-2 PAC, 22-4 overall. (PAC runner-up, District 1-4A champ, PIAA-4A semifinalist).

Players to watch: Seniors: Karlee Fretz, P/SS; Alyssa Sullivan, 1B/3B; Taylor Lindsay, P/1B. Sophomores Morgan Lindsay, C/SS.

Outlook: The Tribe returns four starters who have been All-State, All-PAC and All-Area selections at some point in their careers in Fretz, Sullivan and the Morgan sisters. Taylor and Morgan Lindsay proved lethal as battery mates last season lifting the Tribe to its first-ever district championship and state playoff berth. Upper Perk’s 22 wins last season were more than the program had in the past three years combined, though the team seems far from satisfied. “We are looking to build off last year’s successful season,” said Sullivan. “A powerful lineup and great pitching will be this team’s strength. (Juniors) Gail Kooser and Alexa Banner are ready to step up into bigger roles.” The team can also expect some speed from freshman Jenna Sullivan and some line-up flexibility in classmate Sierra Fretz.

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