One more victory would have given the Greenwich High School softball team eight wins and a berth into the CIAC Class LL Tournament last spring. A season later, the Cardinals are determined to leave nothing to chance.
No longer considered one of the most inexperienced teams in the FCIAC and state, Greenwich believes it can garner the eight wins it needs to qualify for the state tournament and more. The Cardinals, who haven’t made the Class LL tourney the past two seasons, also haven’t played in the FCIAC Tournament since 2014.
It will certainly take more than eight victories to earn a spot in the competitive conference tournament.
“We definitely want to return to states, it’s been two years since we’ve been to states, so we have to get those eight wins,” GHS coach Mary Beth Fratello said. “Hopefully, we can stay healthy, play defense, hit a little bit and be back in the tournament.”
Said Cardinals junior pitcher/co-captain Sophia Prieto: “Last year, we were one win away from states, so we definitely can achieve that goal this year. Making the FCIAC Tournament is also one of our goals. To accomplish our goals, we need to have the right mindset and determination from all of our players.”
Two seasons ago, the Cardinals began the season with several freshmen, who were in the midst of learning what it took to compete at the varsity level. Today, those freshmen are juniors already beginning their third season on the varsity squad.
“These juniors were starters as freshmen and they have all also played on competitive travel teams, so we are not young anymore,” Fratello said. “No more excuses anymore about us being a young team, that ship has sailed. They are an experienced group of players.”
Prieto is one of the Cardinals’ players that is starting her third season on the team. She’s filled the role as Greenwich’s starting pitcher the past two seasons and is primed to produce on the mound this spring.
“Because I already have two years of experience as a starting pitcher that may give me an advantage over some of the teams,” said Prieto, a right-hander. “I know what to expect at the varsity level and I know what to expect from our team. Already having experience can give me an advantage over some other pitchers.”
Senior Emily Delepine will also serve as one of the Cardinals’ captains. Delepine will spend most of her time in right and left field.
“Our team looks good, everyone has been on varsity for two or more years, which gives us a ton of experience,” Delepine said. “Really wanting and believing we can do it is going to help us.”
AT THE HELM: Fratello is beginning her 10th season as coach of the Cardinals. Greenwich posted a record of 7-13 last season, went 5-15 in 2016 and was 10-10 in 2015. The 2014 season saw the Cardinals finish 19-5 and advance to the quarterfinal-round of the Class LL Tournament. In 2013 and 2012, Greenwich won 15 and 11 games, respectively, and made it to the Round of 16 of the state tournament.
Erik Caraballo and Jennifer Preli are assistant coaches.
WHO’S GONE? Julia Greco (third base), Katelyn Burhans (center field), Julia D’Andrea (first base) and Rachel Martinez (infielder/outfielder) were among the graduates from last season’s squad. Greco and D’Andrea were each clutch hitters in the middle of the order.
WHO’S BACK? Prieto gives the Cardinals a durable, dependable starting pitcher.
“She played all summer and all fall and worked with a pitching coach,” Fratello said of Prieto. “She has added more speed to her pitches and she has worked on a couple of pitches.”
Senior Marissa Munoz is the Cardinals’ No. 2 starting pitcher. Jalynn Marrero, a senior, will start at first base, and junior Michelle Morganti will fill the role at second base. Junior Emma Beinstein is the shortstop and junior Kelly Brogan will play third base.
The outfield is comprised of junior Katie Walko in left field, Julie Gambino (junior) in center field and Delphine in right field.
STRENGTHS: “Our fielding and hitting is going to be strong, all-around, we should be a pretty strong team this year,” Delpine said. “We definitely need to continue to work on our communication and we need to focus on keeping a positive attitude.”
Hitting and scoring runs weren’t issues for the Cardinals last season, but they allowed too many unearned runs due to defensive miscues. Fratello and the Cardinals believe their defensive play has improved from a year ago.
SHOWDOWNS: Greenwich hosts New Fairfield in its season-opener on March 31 at 11 a.m. Here’s a look at some of their other matchups. Brookfield (home, April 4), Darien (home, April 9), New Canaan (away, April 11), Fairfield Ludlowe (home, April 16), Staples (home, April 23), Stamford (home, April 25), Westhill (home, May 2) and Fairfield Warde (home, May 9).