WEST HARTFORD >> A young team facing tough competition, the Conard High softball team has been competitive early on this season despite a pair of tough losses.
The Chieftains are off to an 0-2 start to the 2014 season having lost two one-run games. Conard lost its season opener 9-8 at Glastonbury last Wednesday and dropped a 2-1 decision in its home opener Monday against Rocky Hill.
“It’s kind of what we expected to be honest,” Conard coach Tom Verrengia said. “Glastonbury and Rocky Hill good out of league games. It’s difficult to lose one-run games but we have been competitive.”
There hasn’t been one thing that has kept the Chieftains from notching a win in the first two games as they scored plenty of runs but did not play sound defense and lost a lead to Glastonbury and they then just didn’t push enough runs across in a windy game against Rocky Hill.
“It was really tough to hit in the Rocky Hill game with the wind. I think two balls may have been hit out of the infield the whole game,” Verrengia said. “We let a lead slip away against Glastonbury and against Rocky Hill, you hold a team to two runs, you hope to win that game.”
In his 19th season as Conard coach, Verrengia – has led the Chieftains to 13 wins in each of the past two seasons as a follow up to capturing the 2011 Class LL state title. To reach the state tournament again and have a chance at making another tourney run, Verrengia will have to get the most out of a young squad.
Conard graduated seven seniors that started and its two experienced returners are playing new positions. When the team hit the field for the season opener it had nine new starters at all of the positions.
“In our first game we started six sophomores and a freshmen so we are a bit inexperienced,” Verrengia said. “We’re extremely young and the team is learning the game both at their new positions and at the level we want to play at and reach.”
After finishing last season on the mound for Conard and pitching in four games, sophomore Bridget Garach is back on the mound. She will be throwing to sophomore Sarah Hamilton, who played outfield for Verrengia as a freshman.
Sophomore Charlotte Leyland is also back on the varsity squad and will play third base after spending last season as the team’s DH. Verrengia is also expecting contributions on and off the field from senior captains Jamie Lohneiss (OF), Rory Morgan (utility) and Yashvi Dave (OF).
The tough early slate continued Wednesday against defending Class LL state champ Southington. The Chieftains are then back in action at New Britain on Monday.
“Our out of league schedule is very difficult and Southington is our first league game and thats a very tough game too,” Verrengia said. “The beginning of our schedule is very difficult.”
A tough slate for a young team can mean some losses and rough days, but the goal is to have the team playing its best softball at the end of the season. Last year that resulted in a win on the road at New Canaan in the state tournament, a place Verrengia wants his team to get back to.
“We haven’t really set many goals yet but our main goal is try and get better every day, we stress that with the girls,” Verrengia said. “To get back to the tourney would be a great accomplishment. To do that we will have to keep getting better each day and be playing our best down the stretch of the season.”