Lori Marra hears her players talking, and she likes what she’s hearing.
“They’re talking about winning games,” the Southold/Greenport high school softball coach said. “That is something that we had to get to the point where now we know we can win.”
The Clippers (5-11) experienced that winning feeling a handful of times last season. They obviously liked it, want to do more of it, and Marra is fine with that.
The former battery of pitcher Courtney O’Sullivan and catcher Wendy Peterson has moved on, leaving the starting pitcher job to junior Sarah Tuthill and the catching to sophomore Rosemary Volinski, a varsity rookie who can also play in the outfield.
“It’s a very big spot,” Marra said of her new top pitcher. “She’s coming along great. So far I’m happy with what I see. See’s taking on a big role and I think she’s ready for it.”
The Clippers lost a four-year varsity player in first baseman Nicole Busso, but return a three-year varsity player in junior shortstop Caitlin Grilli.
Four seniors are also back: utility player Jessica Rizzo, third baseman/first baseman Alexandra Small, shortstop Skye Gillispie and second baseman Leah LaFreniere.
“Some of the girls that are going to play major roles this year, they’re anxious, they’re ready because they’ve worked hard to take over a starting position,” Marra said. “Seeing them now, ready to shine almost, is exciting to see.”
The 16-player roster includes nine newcomers. Stephanie Clark has a background as a first baseman, but it’s not certain where she will play. Brittany Doucett, who pitched for the junior varsity team last year, is seen more as a field player. Marra has no shortage of outfield candidates, with Mercedes Edwards, Rebecca Guariello, Heather Jarvis, Kendra King, Caroline Metz and Ida Mollica.
“Over the past two weeks I have made more changes,” Marra said. “I’m looking for girls to step up and own a position that’s available.”
It’s a new season, and this is all so new to many of the Mattituck players.
This season is the price the Tuckers (6-13) pay for having a senior-loaded team last year. Nine players from that team have moved on, leaving the Tuckers in full rebuilding mode. Varsity softball is new to nine of the team’s 13 players.
“Some of them are very nervous and some of them don’t know what to expect,” said coach Kelly Pickering. She added: “They’re still learning positions. They’re still learning footwork. The only thing I know right now is they want to do well.”
Lisa Angell, a junior, and Val Hommel, a senior, are the team’s only returning starters. “They are now the leaders on the team,” said Pickering.
While Hommel remains in center field, Angell assumes her new role as the starting pitcher.
“She’s been a nice surprise,” Pickering said. “She’s come in, she’s worked hard in the offseason. She’s working hard right now, throwing consistently. She has decent speed. As long as we can back her up we should do well.”
Caralee Stevens, a junior third baseman, played in a couple of varsity games last year. Rachel Voegel, a sophomore catcher, was brought up from the junior varsity team for the playoffs.
All of the rest of the Tuckers are varsity rookies.
Pickering said the only positions that remained up in the air were those on either side of Hommel, in left field and in right field. The left-field candidates are Alyssa Parks and Katerina Hatzinikolaou. Those being considered for right field are Allie Becker, Constantina Leodis and Parks.
The infield looks to include a seventh-grader, Ashley Perkins, at first base, with junior Julia Orlando at second base and an eighth-grader, Ashley Chew, at shortstop.
Alyssa Scartozzi is an option in the outfield, as is Marisa Sannino, who can also play in the infield.
“We have a lot to look forward to,” Pickering said. “It’s going to be exciting. They have a real good future ahead of them.”
Pickering recognizes that wins will not come easily. “I think if we would be able to reach the playoffs, it would be a huge accomplishment,” she said.