Independence opens the regular season on Monday in Florida and the Blue Devils have their eyes on a big prize this spring.
Of course, the first goal is to defend the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division title the team won last spring, but head coach Garry Moore is eager to make some noise in the postseason.
“We did well winning the conference title and that will be our goal again this year but, and the girls know it, I’m tired of having a good record and then getting into the playoffs and not advancing,” Moore said. “It has nothing to do with lack of talent; we have the talent. We just need to focus more on the big picture. The bottom line is how far we can get in the playoffs and that’s what we’ve been preaching since day one.”
Independence returns eight starters from last season, including a dynamic 1-2 punch in the circle.
Senior captain Kim Rega and junior Sarah Piteo will split time at pitcher and first base for the Blue Devils.
“They’re solid and very competitive,” Moore said. “We really don’t have a dedicated No. 1 because they’re both No. 1. It will be fun to watch them battle. I could send either one of them out at any time.”
Junior Jenna Suhy returns behind the plate and she’s one of the top catchers in the league.
“She’s steady,” Moore said. “She really improved her hitting from the left side. She’s slapping and bunting better. So now they’ll have to respect that.”
Senior captain Maggie George has locked down the third base position for the past three years and she’ll be there again this spring.
“They don’t get any better than her, not only as a player but as a person,” Moore said. “She’s solid. If we get some offensive power out of her it will be a plus.”
Senior Sophia Trombetta, a Michigan golf signee, is back at shortstop.
“She’s probably the best athlete on the team,” Moore said. “I wish that kid would have played softball along with golf growing up because she’s just a great athlete. The other day she barehanded a ball and threw the girl out on one bounce and everyone just laughed and smiled because that’s what she does.”
Junior Olivia Pallini will play second base.
“She has a lot of power,” Moore said. “We’re looking forward to seeing her. She’s in the No. 7 hole, that’s how good our lineup is offensively. She has a good glove and we’re looking for some good things from her.”
While the infield is set it’s the starting outfield that won’t be decided until the Blue Devils touch down in Florida.
“That’s the question mark,” Moore said. “We have quality athletes, no doubt about it, but it’s a horserace out there.”
Seniors Ashley Caputo and Nina Costanzo, junior Jess Massey, sophomores Molly Dougherty and Elise Nelson and freshman Morgan Pascarella all are competing for playing time.
“They’re all vying for those three positions right now,” Moore said. “They’re all competing and competition is healthy. It’s not good for them because they’re all nervous wrecks but that competition is healthy.”