The spring of 2018 will long be remembered in SWC territory for the amount of havoc weather wreaked on the softball schedule.
Wet fields first led to delays and postponements. Then tornados swept through the area, which one team, New Milford, to play a regular-season finale and a SWC quarterfinal on the same day. While teams can hope the weather is kinder this year, the league will likely be chasing the same foe for the championship in late May.
Masuk has claimed the last two titles; the last team to win three straight SWC titles were the Panthers from 2005-09. The Panthers are coming off a 27-0 season and a Class L championship.
5 TEAMS TO WATCH
MASUK: It almost doesn’t seem far that the Panthers get to run it back with most of their talent back, save for catcher Erica Pullen and shortstop Alexa Bacoulis. The dynamic duo of Sam Schiebe and Madison Procyk in the circle plus a strong lineup makes Masuk the No. 1 team in the first GameTimeCT/Register Top 10 poll.
NEWTOWN: It was a successful first season for Joanna Closs as head coach. Newtown reached the SWC final before winning a pair of games in states. Backing that up after the graduation of Sara Kennedy (Villanova) is the next challenge. The Nighthawks are captained by Kendra Sounders and Heather Stroilli.
ND-FAIRFIELD: Many in the league believe the Lancers are the biggest threat to ending Masuk’s dominance, and can do so on the right night. ND lost several close games last year but returns a strong group. The loss of Lucy Grant (Smith College) the lone downer.
BROOKFIELD: The bulk of one of the most talented offenses in the league returns, including Laila Cofone and Emily Parchinksi. The Bobcats – who reached the Class L final after being knocked out in the SWC quarterfinals – will replace Alyssa Lionetti with sophomore hurler Emma Sands.
BARLOW: The Falcons have two excellent pieces that any team hopes to own: a strong starting pitcher (Claire McCann) and a leadoff runner who gets on base far more than she doesn’t (Abby Ota). Manufaturing runs will be the key to another successful season; the Falcons thrive in the low-scoring.
5 PLAYERS TO WATCH
Breana Brown, ND-Fairfield: The junior hit more than .500 last year while burdening most of the load in the circle. Started 18 games a year ago and pitched to a 2.82 ERA.
Emily Parchinski, Brookfield: The heart of the lineup is a potential extra-base machine and is just a junior; the first baseman slugged .804 last year.
Claire McCann, Barlow: A flame-thrower who could emerge as one of the state’s best this year; has big-game experience from both her freshman and sophomore years.
Meg McFarland, Masuk: A five-tool player who will help the Panthers’ defense of both crowns much easier. Hit over .500 and has few rivals when it comes to outfield play.
Sam Schiebe, Masuk: Hurled one shutout after another to lead Masuk to the Promised Land.
5 GAMES TO WATCH
Trumbull at Barlow, April 2, 4:15: A win over the Eagles last year spring-boarded the Falcons to an outstanding season, one that ended in the SWC semifinals in eight innings against Newtown.
St. Joseph at Newtown, April 3, 4:30 p.m.: Another great early-season test for both teams; for the Nighthawks a game against one of the state’s best will prepare it for a tough SWC schedule.
Masuk at Barlow, April 26, 4:15 p.m.: Potentially the two top teams meet twice in the first month of the season. Last year’s game in Monroe was decided in eight innings.
Masuk at ND-Fairfield, May 1, 4:15 p.m.: The Lancers almost ended the Panthers’ perfect season in a 6-5 decision a year ago; ND has the tools required to do it this term.
New Milford at New Fairfield, May 10, 4:15 p.m.: A late-season matchup between two playoff hopefulls; the Rebels return starting pitcher Makayla Lindsey.