It’s been quite some time since one could use terms such as “versatile,” “deep” and “experienced” to describe the New Canaan High School Varsity Softball team. With that said…if anyone were looking for any soft spots on third-year head coach Danielle Simoneau’s 2013 squad, one would have to look extremely hard.
“Truthfully, I don’t see us as having weaknesses,” said Simoneau. “The strengths are definitely going to be our bats as long as we use them, and pitching and defense. It’s a lot of strengths so weaknesses are minimal, if that doesn’t sound too cocky.”
The Lady Rams might not be cocky, but any confidence they may have is certainly justified. Led by their quintet of senior captains - Cydney Ventura, Jordan Ventura, Courtney Rogers, Brittany Overacker and Marlee Ready – New Canaan boasts a loaded lineup. Seven out of the projected starting nine players were also starters last season. Rogers made First Team All-FCIAC in 2012, and Jordan and Cydney Ventura made Second Team All-FCIAC along with junior Ali Reilly. It’s this combined experience which should have New Canaan in the discussion to win their first FCIAC Championship in school history.
Of course, there are still some of the usual suspects that stand in their way.
“Darien will be tough with Erika Osherow on the mound,” Simoneau told Patch. “Stamford High…they never quit. Westhill lost a lot of players, but they always perform well when they get on the field. So I think those are the top 3 in terms of competition.”
For New Canaan to vault past the aforementioned teams, they might need to rely on the versatility of their players. Senior Abby Jenkins and junior Collette Pellegrini will primarily see time in the OF, but have played multiple positions – including infield – in the past. If Simoneau feels the need to mix things up, she has some nice cards to play.
“Abby came back and that’s going to be a huge strength because she can play any position we put her in. Plus we have Collette who looks really good, and she can play anywhere,” said Simoneau. “Marlee can play any position you put her in, Courtney can play any position you put her in. Cyd is versatile – when she’s on the mound she’s dangerous with her bat, but she’s also going to see the OF. So we have flexibility when we need to make a change.”
The Lady Rams will also benefit from the return of two key components mostly missing from last season, when New Canaan finished 12-9 before being ousted in the first Round of the Class L State tournament by Naugatuck.
Brittany Overacker suffered a concussion in the third game of the season against Norwalk, and did not return the rest of the year. Now rested and healthy, the senior 2B/SS is anxious to get back between the lines and anchor the New Canaan infield, which is one of the strongest in the league.
The other major “addition” is the return of Amanda Frattaroli. After taking last season off, the senior 1B’s comeback in 2013 was met with enthusiasm from her teammates and coaches.
“That fills a huge void at 1B,” said Simoneau. “And offensively, Amanda having a strong bat makes us stronger.”
New Canaan will also be fielding a JV team this season, and if necessary, can draw from a deep pool of underclassmen.
“We have Rachel Kortman, a junior, who’s been working very hard,” said Simoneau. “She is going to float back and forth between JV and Varsity. Grace Wagner is a sophomore, and another one who has worked hard during the offseason, so she’s going to float back and forth. Claire Conley is a freshman who is a tremendous athlete. We are going to see if we can get her behind the plate for a few games.”
Perhaps of all the strengths the Lady Rams have, none will have more impact than their pitching…something quite appropriate for a Simoneau-coached team.
Star pitcher Cydney Ventura will once again be throwing to twin sister Jordan behind the plate. The duo has formed one of the most formidable batteries in New Canaan Softball history, and both will be looking to close out their Ram careers on a high note. And junior fireballer Ali Reilly has improved each year, giving Simoneau two bona fide aces - a luxury most teams in the FCIAC will envy.
“It’s almost unheard of. Usually you have one horse and you just ride them the entire season,” said Simoneau. “We have two horses who are equal in ability on the mound, at other positions and with the bat.”
Despite the similarities in their level of play, Ventura and Reilly’s pitching styles could not be any more disparate.
“Cyd’s a finesse pitcher,” Simoneau told Patch. “She places that ball exactly where it needs to go, and she doesn’t get rattled. And then you have Ally who is a power pitcher. She moves the ball, but she gets a lot of speed on it.
“So we’re the lucky ones,” Simoneau continued. “We don’t have to worry about having one struggle, and then bringing someone into the game that isn’t at the Varsity level. We do have two pitchers who I would say are in the top 5 in the FCIAC.”
With all the pieces seemingly in place, the Rams are poised to make a serious run in 2013. At this past weekend’s jamboree -where New Canaan scrimmaged against main rivals Darien and Stamford High – Simoneau was cautiously optimistic, but also very pleased and excited to get the season started.
“I think the teams in the league are hit or miss; it depends on what team shows up that day,” Simoneau told Patch. “It’s anybody’s game to win this year, we’ll see what happens. But it was great to see the way that they played today, and the enthusiasm and the fun that they had.”
2012 RECORD: 12-9 (.571 Win Pct.).
Eliminated in First Round of CIAC Class L Tournament
PLAYERS TO WATCH: P – Cydney Ventura (Sr.); C – Jordan Ventura (Sr.); INF – Courtney Rogers (Sr.); INF – Britney Overacker (Sr.); INF – Marlee Ready (Sr.); OF – Abby Jenkins (Sr.); INF – Amanda Frattaroli (Sr.); P – Ali Reilly (Jr.)
SLEEPERS: OF/IF – Collette Pellegrini (Jr.); OF/C – Claire Conley (Fr.)