NORWALK — It would be fair to say that last year’s postseason high of making the FCIAC playoffs by Norwalk High School was soon tempered by back-to-back losses in the league quarterfinals and first round of the state tournament.
With a bunch of returning veterans, though, and a talented group of sophomores ready to take the baton into the future, the Bears are looking to end the 2018 season quite differently.
“We are aiming for the FCIAC championship game and also to go deeper into the state tournament,” Norwalk coach Elaine Gratrix said.
While Norwalk was thrilled to qualify for the FCIACs last season, the sudden end to the year, thanks to a 6-3 home loss to West Haven in the first round of the state’s big school tournament, left the Bears unfulfilled.
In fact, after starting the season 13-2, the entire finishing kick of the season — 1-6 in its last seven games — was disappointing.
“We need to fight harder,” Gratrix said. “We had a lot of really great moments last year, but we let some games get away from us. This season, we need to have more consistency and resilience. Each time we take the field, we need to play with heart and tenacity and be determined to finish the job.”
The Bears boast perhaps the best hitter in the FCIAC, if not one of the best hitters in the entire state, in Dina DiBlasio.
An All-FCIAC first-team choice last season, DiBlasio will move from third base — where she has started for three straight years — to behind the plate, replacing four-year starter Sam Troetti.
While the move might initially seem a head-scratcher, DiBlasio was actually a catcher growing up and still catches during summer ball.
It is her offense that opens eyes around the league.
In 66 games during her NHS career, DiBlasio has 101 hits. She’s hitting .441 for her career, including 22 doubles, 14 triples and 17 home runs, 11 of which came last year.
She has driven in 83 in her career, including 45 last season.
She also struck out once last season in 87 plate appearances.
DiBlasio won’t be the only stick in the Norwalk lineup, making the Bears even more dangerous.
Seniors Katie Sciglimpaglia is an all-FCIAC first-team shortstop, Jessica Otto is back at first after an All-FCIAC second-team season and Skyler Suda is one of the best defensive center fielders in the league.
Gabriela Catino and Marisa Swanson, both seniors, are also returnees.
Junior pitcher Brianny Garcia returns as does her twin sister, Brenda, who is a two-year starter at second base.
Sophomore Mia Lanzarotto is also back. She can pitch and play outfield.
Lanzarotto will be joined by sophomore classmates Catherine Sheehan (3B), Erica Giglio (OF-1B), Jordan Hogan (OF), and Kaitlyn Greco (C/IF) to give the team depth.
“We’ll need to stay healthy and play up to our potential,” Gratrix said. “Our strengths are experience, solid defense and a balanced offense. I would say this is the all-around most talented NHS team I have seen in my 21 years with the program.”
How far can this team go? The sky’s the limit if they just play.
“We need to get out of our own way and show actions that are consistent with our goals,” Gratrix said. “We’ll go as far as we believe we can go.”