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2021 Mercury Softball Team-by-Team Preview

Pioneer Athletic Conference

BOYERTOWN

Head coach: Kim Musselman, 5th season

2019 record: 4-6 PAC Liberty, 8-12 overall

Players to watch: Seniors Rachel Hartman, INF; MacKenzie Shaner, DP/C; Logan Black, OF/IF; Morgan Sauers, INF. Juniors Nicole Kratz, INF; Carlee Frantz, OF/IF.

Outlook: Boyertown has a solid senior foundation built around four future college players Rachel Hartman (Ursinus), MacKenzie Shaner (Lebanon Valley), Logan Black (Robert Morris) and Morgan Sauers (York College). Still, from a program standpoint, coach Kim Musselman spoke to the toll of the lost 2020 season: “As with every team, the shutdown was difficult on our program,” she said. The term ‘rebuilding’ has historically been a sugar-coated way to expect a down year, but that isn’t true in 2021. Literally every program is trying to rebuild after two years apart and Boyertown is one of them. “We are ultimately rebuilding after a lost year; however, we are looking forward to this season as we have seen lots of improvements from many players over the winter,” Musselman said. “We are excited by what we have seen from the underclassman and hope they can make immediate contributions and hope that our senior class will make it a memorable final year for all.”

METHACTON

Methacton’s Caraline Newman hits an RBI double against Upper Perkiomen in 2019. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Head coach: Cathy Miller, 40th season

2019 record: 7-3 PAC Liberty, 16-6 overall, District 1-6A second round

Players to watch: Seniors Haley Chapman, OF; Caraline Newman, 3B; Olivia Terry, C; Paige Deal, P/1st; Casey Biglin, P/OF; Serena Goodridge, 1B; Lisetta Coppa, OF. Juniors Tori Bockrath, SS; Nicole Timko, OF; Kendall Besly, SS; Katie Hull, OF; Kayla Kaufman, OF; Caitlin Woolbert, C. Sophomores Riley Kairer, 2B/3B; Avery Schwartz, SS/2B.
Outlook: Methacton comes close to leading the PAC in returning varsity experience – and not just coach Cathy Miller, who will lead the Warriors for a remarkable 40th straight year. Caraline Newman (All-Area second team in 2019), Paige Deal, Nicole Timko and Tori Bockrath are returning starters from the ‘19 team while a handful of others saw playing time. The Warriors will rely on the pitching of Deal, who Miller says “should keep us in every game. Timely hitting will help her out.” Some positions are still in flux, but the talent is there for Methacton to contend in the PAC and District 1. “We have a nice mix of juniors and seniors who have varsity playing experience. The two sophomores are talented players with versatile skills. They are a welcome addition,” Miller said. “The team is looking forward to competing in the PAC 10 this year and hopefully qualifying for districts.”

NORRISTOWN

Coach: Anthony Ciarlello, 1st season

2019 record: 2-16 overall

Players to watch: Seniors Jordyn Bell, CF; Shannon Taylor, P; Julianna McNamee, INF; Erin Morse, C; Gabrielle DeFrangesco, OF; Alexa Eaton, INF. Sophomore Ryan Morse, P.

Outlook: Anthony Ciarlello takes over the Eagles this spring. A teacher in the Norristown school district, Ciarlello served as Phoenixville head football coach in the fall. Norristown will be led by returning All-PAC outfielder Jordyn Bell. The Eagles will look to sophomore Ryan Morse and senior Shannon Taylor for pitching duties. “We are excited that we get to be on the field playing. We will play a lot of games in a short amount of time,” said Ciarlello. “Every game gives us an opportunity to get better. Once the newness of the season wears off I think this team will succeed on the field.”

OWEN J ROBERTS

Owen J. Roberts pitcher Sam Walsh, center, is congratulated by catcher Casey Walker, left, and third baseman Jordan Sylvia after making a catch in foul territory against Upper Perkiomen in 2019. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Head coach: Stacey Kushner, 2nd season

2019 record: 4-6 PAC Liberty, 10-10 overall

Players to watch: Seniors Claudia Alldred, OF; Jordan Sylvia, 3B.

Outlook: Stacey Kushner, an OJR teacher and Methacton graduate who played at Lafayette, is in her second season with the Wildcats, this spring being the first where she can lead on the field. Kushner will enjoy a deep Wildcats roster that features nine seniors, including outfielder Claudia Alldred, third baseman Jordan Sylvia, plus 2019 All-Area selections Charlotte Skonieczny and Morgan Twaddell. Kushner felt the Wildcats were able to hit the ground running this spring while incorporating the coach’s ‘new workouts, drills, and philosophies,’ while she praised the leadership present on the OJR roster. OJR is ‘feeling confident both defensively and offensively and are beyond excited for this season,” said Kushner. The Wildcats should be poised for a return to the District 1-6A playoffs after missing out in 2019 and are expected to be a top-half of the PAC team.

PHOENIXVILLE

Coach: Claire Emplit, 3rd season

Phoenixville pitcher Kendall Brown.

2019 record: 6-4 PAC Frontier, 9-12 overall, District 1-5A qualifier

Players to watch: Seniors Aubrie Breisblatt, INF; Kendall Brown, P; Hayden Perrone, OF; Courtney Gable, P; Chloe Johns, INF.

Outlook: The Phantoms look primed for a strong season with the heart of its order and top two pitchers back for their senior seasons. Pitcher/cleanup hitter Kendall Brown, a University of Pittsburgh commit, leads the way alongside Aubrie Breisblatt, who was second team All-Area in 2019. Phoenixville should be in position to battle it out with Upper Perkiomen for the PAC Frontier title and get its first district playoff win since 2013.

PERKIOMEN VALLEY

Coach: John Pascucci, 1st season

2019 record/accomplishments: 12-8 overall, District 1-6A second round

Players to watch: Seniors Abby Souder, 2B; Anna Hallissey, 1B/OF; Ava Macalis, P/1B; Brianna Reim, SS/2B; Chloe Rupe, OF; Kinsey Moses, OF. Juniors: Sam Sciarra, 3B; Serena Crovetti, SS/C; Sam Corey, OF; Leah Aiken, C/3B; Ella Strechay 1B; Josie Strechay P/INF; Jennifer Beattie, INF. Freshman: Bella Reedy P/3B.

Outlook: John Pascucci takes over the PV softball program, a role formerly held by the late Joe Bogus, the longtime area softball fixture at Phoenixville and PV who died last May. While Pascucci is concerned about the potential rust of the lost season of 2020, the Vikings field many year-round players who will have been working into softball shape since last fall. The lineup will feature many new names because of an upperclassmen-heavy group in 2019. Senior infielder Abby Souder (Lebanon Valley commit) was an All-Area pick in 2019 while fellow senior pitcher Ava Macalis performed well in limited innings in the circle as a sophomore. “PV has a strong presence at the plate,” Pascucci said. “As a team, we have spent a lot of time discussing and working on our bat control and awareness of the strike zone. Our program also has an arsenal of solid pitchers.” Despite the plethora of unproven varsity players, the standard at PV is always high which should put the Vikings in the top half of the PAC and into districts.

POPE JOHN PAUL II

Head coach: Joseph Ottavino, 1st season

2019 record: 5-5 PAC Frontier, 7-13 overall

Players to watch: Seniors Dani Dare, P; Alex DiCampello, CF; Isabela Caruso, 3B/C; Grace Vigliotta, 2B; Grace Paul, OF. Junior Ally Hourigan, C; Kelsey Bryant, C. Sophomore Emily Dougherty, SS.

Outlook: The Golden Panthers are in transition with the introduction of new coach Joseph Ottavino. PJP has its Nos. 4 and 5 hitters back from the 2019 team in Alex DiCampello and Ally Hourigan and pitcher Dani Dare threw significant innings as an underclassmen but are new-look otherwise. Still, Ottavino believes a solid foundation is in place for PJP this season. “I’m expecting us to surprise a few teams this season with our fundamentals and aggressive style of play,” he said.

POTTSGROVE

Head coach: Jessica Bedard, 4th season

2019 record: 2-8 PAC Frontier, 4-15 overall

Players to watch: Seniors Justine Fretz, 2B; Brianna Herbert, SS. Freshmen Avery Gleason, P/1B; Mikayla Eckman, P/1B; Elizabeth McAllister, 3B; Bailey Pysher, C.

Outlook: The Falcons have a pair of returning 2019 All-Area players in seniors Justine Fretz and Brianna Herbert but are otherwise a very young outfit. That includes turning to freshmen Avery Gleason and Mikayla Eckman for pitching duties. It’s an opportunity for growth for a lot of underclassmen getting an early chance at varsity action. “We are very young throughout the infield and outfield with a few upperclassmen who show great leadership,” Bedard said. “Our youth is both our strength and an area of improvement as we gain experience in playing together as a team.”

POTTSTOWN

Head coach: Jesse Tupper, 1st season

2019 record: 0-10 PAC Frontier, 1-16 overall

Players to watch: Senior Haley Haas, SS. Sophomore Ariana Gilmore, P/CF.

Season outlook: Head coach Jesse Tupper and assistant Aaron Torrence take over the Pottstown varsity program but will be no strangers to the players. The pair spent the last three seasons at the middle school level, building the program from the ground up. “We are excited to follow the girls and coach them in their high school years,” said Tupper. The Trojans will be led by senior shortstop Haley Haas and sophomore pitcher/outfielder Ariana Gilmore. Filling out the rest of the lineup is historically where it gets more challenging for the Trojans, who have not won a PAC game in more than a decade. Nevertheless, there’s optimism around the Trojans. “We are excited to be able to play this season and are looking forward to growing as a team,” said Tupper. “We are prepared to work hard and are excited to continue working with our players for another few years!”

SPRING-FORD

Spring-Ford’s Noelle Reid drives in a run on a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning against Quakertown in a District 1-6A playoff game in 2019. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Head coach: Tim Hughes, 24th season

2019 record: 26-2 overall, District 1-6A third place, PIAA 6A semifinalist

Players to watch: Seniors Noelle Reid, OF; Maddie Walsh, INF; Bre Peck, P/INF; Caleigh Tennity, INF; Lily Undercofler, OF/C; Kali McCann, OF; Danielle McNeill, INF.

Outlook: When the Rams last played they were in the semifinals of the PIAA tournament in 2019. Despite losing last season when it would have been a favorite to win a state championship, aspirations can be nearly as high this spring. A strong senior class is headlined by a pair of 2019 All-Area first team picks in Bre Peck (Virginia Tech commit) and Noelle Reid (Miami of Ohio). Peck was Mercury All-Area and Pa. Gatorade Player of the Year as a sophomore with a blend of power pitching and hitting while Reid is an ultra-consistent bat and glove. Others who saw significant action on the 2019 team were infielder Maddie Walsh and junior pitcher Juliana Scogna. Keeping ‘the various distractions at bay’ will be paramount to Spring-Ford’s success according to longtime coach Tim Hughes. If the Rams can maintain such focus it should be a long, championship-chasing season for Spring-Ford.

UPPER MERION

Head coach: Missy Toto, 4th season

2019 record: 8-2 PAC Frontier, 13-10 overall, District 1-5A semifinals, PIAA 5A first round

Players to watch: Seniors Valentina Marino, C; Alex Miller, 1B/OF. Juniors Vanessa Hutchinson, OF; Cady Legerton, IF; Kasha Canale, IF. Sophomores Reese Doan, P/IF; Michele Maas, OF; Maren DeStefano, IF. Freshmen Ava DiDonato, P/IF; Rebecca Shuler, IF/OF; Emma Ricci, IF.

Outlook: Upper Merion reached the state tournament for the first time in 2019, a banner season by any measure. Two starters, catcher Valentina Marino and outfielder Vanessa Hutchinson, return from that team to lead a less experienced roster. “We have a number of girls with the potential to step up big this year and we need to put them in the position to do so. We are off to a good start in practice and hope to continue the momentum,” coach Missy Toto said. Toto praised the hitting of the Vikings in practice, which she’ll hope translates in the game-heavy season.

UPPER PERKIOMEN

Upper Perkiomen’s Dani Freer hits an RBI single against Phoenixville in 2019. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Coach: Dean Sullivan, 7th season

2019 record: 9-1 PAC Frontier, 17-9 overall, District 1-5A third place, PIAA 5A first round

Players to watch: Seniors Sierra Fretz, C/3B; Jenna Sullivan, OF; Taylor Croak, P/1B; Lily Dibble, P. Juniors Dani Freer, SS; Kylene Gooch, INF; Lynnsi Joyce, C/OF.

Outlook: It would have been hard to imagine a team could return more than half its starting lineup after two years passage since the last high school softball season, but Upper Perk is living proof. Past success matches their experience for a Tribe team with a very high ceiling. Leading the way will be seniors Sierra Fretz (Univ. of Albany commit) and Jenna Sullivan, both All-Area in 2019, and pitcher Taylor Croak, who was on the way to being elite before an ACL injury cost her sophomore season. She’ll likely share pitching duties with fellow senior Lily Dibble, who hurled UP into states as a sophomore. Junior shortstop Dani Freer’s all-around play impressed as a freshman. Head coach Dean Sullivan is feeling positively about the team’s depth, versatility and defense and noted Madalyn Dyer, Ashley Forrest and Elizabeth Proctor as potential contributors to another strong season for what has become the PAC Frontier’s premier program. Upper Perk can contend for the PAC championship and has what it takes to continue a streak of PIAA tournament berths that dates back to 2017.

Others

DANIEL BOONE

Head Coach: Lee Trythall, 5th season.

Daniel Boone’s Dani Hayes (10) high fives teammate Kristen DiNolfi after DiNolfi scores against Governor Mifflin in 2019. (Owen McCue – MediaNews Group)

2019 record: 9-1 Berks II, 18-6 overall, District 3-5A quarterfinals

Players to watch: Seniors Dani Hayes, P/SS; Hailey Kaba, OF; Hannah Johns, INF/OF; Grace Miller, 1B/3B; Emily Kassekert, OF; Hannah Cassner, 1B/3B; Jenna Heasley, 2B. Juniors Kristen DiNolfi, SS; Amber Williams, C/3B. Freshman Reagan Stout, C/OF; Julia Maggs, P.

Outlook: In 2019, head coach Lee Trythall saw big things on the horizon for the Blazers. He went as far to predict they would contend for a state title within two years. One opportunity was taken away by the COVID-19 pandemic a year ago, but the time is still now for Daniel Boone, an upperclassmen-filled roster with ‘speed, power, experience and versatility’ according to Trythall. Stanford commit Dani Hayes (Mercury All-Area first team in 2019) shifts from shortstop to take on pitching responsibilities while seniors Hailey Kaba and Hannah Johns and junior Kristen DiNolfi – a trio of All-Berks Division 2 players in 2019 – may also be on the move in the field. “The top of the lineup is one of the best I’ve had in a long time and the talent runs deep, top to bottom,” Trythall said. It’s also a closely-connected team for years: seven of nine DB starters played together on the 2011 DB Inferno 8U team that won the 8U Babe Ruth state championship. Another state championship 10 years later would make for quite a bow on a successful run.

HILL SCHOOL

Head Coach: Becca Shipper, 2nd season

2019 record: 11-9 overall

Players to watch: Senior Colleen Quinn, SS. Sophomore Aryanna Bodge, P/INF. Freshman Belle DiCampello, C.

Outlook: The names and faces have almost entirely changed since Hill last played in 2019. Senior shortstop Colleen Quinn is the lone player with any varsity experience, but she has brought excellent leadership to the Blues, according to head coach Becca Shipper. Quinn is joined by Kaitlyn Rosario and Hannah Gordon as team captains. A pair of young but promising players in sophomore pitcher Aryanna Bodge and freshman catcher Belle DiCampello (both from Pottstown) comprise the battery this spring. With so much turnover there is a lot to install in a short time, but Shipper has hailed the attitude of her roster. “The overall culture and attitudes of the players has been a strength that has shone through over the last few weeks of practices,” said Shipper, a 2014 Hill grad. “After last season’s cancellation, the biggest challenge for the team will be finding their rhythm after a year off of competition and defining their unique team identity with the addition of so many newcomers and underclassmen.”

PERKIOMEN SCHOOL

Head Coach: Justin Sell, 3rd season

2019 record: Not available

Players to watch: Seniors Kate Galant, 2B; Kaia Glacken, P/SS. Junior Anya Crapo, 1B. Freshman Claudia Knowles, P.

Outlook: A heavily underclassmen roster will play for the Panthers in 2021. There are high hopes for the pitching of freshman Claudia Knowles, who will be supported in the circle by senior Kaia Glacken. Eighth grader Kenna Tobin is expected to serve as catcher. “Pitching will definitely be one of our biggest strengths this year. I feel that our pitching will keep us in games,” coach Justin Sell said. Solidifying the defense is a high priority. “A lot of players are learning new positions this year, so this will take time to develop,” said Sell.

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