The season is well under way… or not, depending on how you look at things. With inclement weather hindering the early portion of the spring high school sports season, many softball (and baseball) teams hardly have been on the field to take infield and shag fly balls, let alone play a seven-inning game. Hopefully, we’re now past the weary winter so that the spring campaign can kick into full swing. With that, here is the first softball Super 7 (don’t judge us on tardiness, please).
NOTE: While most teams have played at least one meaningful game since the season began March 21, I am, for the most part, ignoring those early results. I think that’s only fair. (Although, I will include season records through Sunday, March 30 in parenthesis.) So here goes..
1. Springfield (2-0)
Some coaches in the Central League believe this is the team to beat, based on the information form/questionnaire we requested coaches fill out prior to the season, which included offering predictions for their respective leagues. And, really, what’s not to like about the Cougars, who have two legitimate pitchers (most teams have trouble finding one who is reliable) in junior Courtney Scarpato and sophomore Tori DePietro, who earned victories in her team’s first two games? And both players can swing the stick, too. Three-time All-Delco Lauren Scarpato is back for her senior season, albeit at a different position, as coach Todd Odgers has moved her from shortstop to third base, allowing either Courtney (Lauren’s sister) or DePietro to start that position when the other is in the circle. Taylor Winkleman is another big bat in the lineup, too. Are they the favorite to win the Central League? Too early to tell, but I’d imagine they’ll be in the running most of the year.
2. Haverford (1-0)
The Fords have arguably the most feared player in the county, All-Delco pitcher Bridget Newman, who attracts the intentional walk/pitch-around treatment more frequently than any player I’ve seen at the high school level. Newman can obliterate a softball and is a sight to see playing the sport. But she is far from a one-player show. The Fords have a tremendous lineup that includes center fielder and leadoff hitter Maura Cesanek, third baseman Sammi Donato and catcher Tyler Beccari. The reigning co-Central League champs are out to prove they are the team to beat.
3. Cardinal O’Hara (1-0)
The All-Delco one-two punch of seniors Molly Rafferty (pitcher) and Lauren DelRomano (second base) are going to be difficult to beat. Third baseman Jackie Marshall and first baseman Grace Boston provide experience, skill and thump in the Lions’ starting lineup. In terms of having the most depth, one-through-nine, few teams are better positioned than O’Hara.
4. Chichester (1-0)
The Eagles bring back junior pitcher Meghan Wimmer and a slew of key contributors to last year’s improbable run to the state tournament (Chi was runnerup in the District One Class AAA title game). First things first: Wimmer is pretty awesome and clearly the best pitcher in the Del Val League…and maybe in all of the Delco land. Corner outfielder Sarah Murray is a huge bat who delivered over and over again in big spots last spring . Junior catcher Maddie Thornton is due for a breakout season. So, Chi has the talent to win the Del Val League, but they have to break The Interboro Curse, something they failed to do while All-Delco shortstop Michelle Hagarty (LaSalle) was around making softball look easy. This could be the Eagles’ year, and don’t underestimate the postseason experience, either, as no Delco team had more success in the playoffs last year than Chichester.
5. Episcopal Academy
The Churchwomen are primed to win the Inter-Ac League. They are an experienced bunch, led by junior pitcher Alex Viscusi, who has shown she can carry the team with her arm and bat. Senior catcher Gabby Donatucci and Viscusi have been batterymates for every game since Viscusi’s freshman year. Junior Taylor Long is a slick-fielding infielder returns to a lineup that should give plenty of teams fits this year.
6. Bonner-Prendergast (1-0)
So, you, the astute Delco high school softball fan may be asking yourself: “Hey Matt, what’s up with you putting the Pandas all the way down at No. 6? Have you no respect for the reigning Catholic League champs?” My response to you: You’re right. Shame on me. But even with the Pandas’ strong core of returning starting players (shortstop Nicole Shields, third baseman Robyn Gannon, catcher Cait Kerrigan, center fielder Bern Carey, all of whom are seniors), the fact remains they are working in a “new” pitcher in Jess Knapp. While the junior southpaw has varsity experience, this is her first stab as the full-time starter. Yep, those duties are now on Knapp’s lap (sorry). She’s sure to do a swell job, but if you take a closer look at the Super 7 to this point, you’ll notice all of these teams have proven aces with at least one full season of varsity pitching out of the way. Now Knapp is on the map (really sorry). And that’s a wrap (OK, that’s enough…).
7. Agnes Irwin
No, the Owls didn’t four-peat as Inter-Ac League champions last year, but they did finish 2013 celebrating a PAISSA state title. That’s a pretty awesome consolation prize, right? And, well, they’re eyeing another amazing run behind the strength of All-Delco pitcher Katie Wenger. This is a young team looking to fill holes, with starting experience at only a few positions outside of Wenger’s, but one that should still be hard to beat. (If there’s Wenger, there’s a way…?). Senior catcher Emily Speakman is a team leader and a vital part to the Owls’ success. Oh, and it’s hard to overlook the fact that AI coach Laura Stott is a proven winner, boasting a mind-boggling (in a good way!) 37-5 record in her first two seasons on the job.
Radnor (1-0): With their experienced hitting (power hitter Bari Margolis is the real deal) and pitching (ditto Izzy Schaefer), the Raiders are a sleeper in the Central League.
Ridley (1-1): Watch out, this team is getting good fast.
Garnet Valley (0-1): The Jaguars have so much raw talent, and experienced pitching (senior Nicole Clayton) could take them a long way.
Interboro (1-0): Yes, the Bucs are a bit slighted in the first Super 7 and still the top dog in the Del Val until proven otherwise. But let’s see how the pitching develops without Olivia Encarnacion around. The lineup is pretty stacked, though.