The 2014 season ended in pretty disappointing fashion for the Pinkerton Academy softball squad and veteran coach Terry Bailey, as the team won three of their last four regular-season contests but then fell in the opening round of the Division I tournament.
The Lady Astros finished the regular season with a solid 11-7 record to snag the number eight seed in the tourney. But Bailey’s bunch ended up dropping an extra-inning decision to the ninth-ranked Exeter High Lady Blue Hawks in Derry as the tourney commenced, and that wound up being Bailey’s last game as the leader of the PA varsity crew.
Enter Kristen Abbott as the new Pinkerton varsity softball coach, and she finds herself with a contingent that boasts seven players with previous varsity experience – including four returning starters – and a bunch of newcomers to the highest high school level.
The returning starters include seniors Lauren Phillips (catcher) and Ashley Walalis (pitcher/infielder) and sophomores Abby Amato (infielder) and Nicole Gonya (infielder).
The other returning letter-winners are seniors McKenzie Anderson (outfielder), Kaylie DeCosmo (infielder) and Kelsey Weston (infielder).
The sizable crew of promising newcomers includes junior Lizzie Hayward (pitcher/outfielder), sophomores Jess Nardozza (OF), Carrie St. Peter (pitcher), and Caitlin Hogan (IF/OF), and freshmen Sigourney Lavoie (IF), Makayla Bolduc (catcher), and Caroline Mills (P/IF).
“This season we are going to be a team that works on filling the gaps for the positions that were filled by last year’s seniors, but the returners and newcomers are making the adjustments needed to do that already in practices,” said Abbott. “We have four pitchers with a variety of experience, and they are going to constantly learn from one another in order to strengthen that aspect of the game. Our focus is to play as an entire unit on the field. Offensively, we are looking to be aggressive and put pressure on the defense. Each game we will focus on increasing our strengths.”
The Lady Astros officially started their 2015 campaign this past Monday, April 13, with a visit to their rivals the Londonderry High Lady Lancers at LHS. And it could have been a better start – and first varsity coaching experience – for Abbott and her bunch, who started the season with a tough 2-0 loss to their hosts.
LHS senior pitcher Melissa Sprague was an overpowering force for the victorious Lady Lancers, striking out 17 batters and holding Pinkerton to just one hit on an infield safety by Lauren Phillips to lead off the top of the second inning.
The Lady Astros got their leadoff batters on base in both the first and second frames, and they had two runners on base with nobody out in the second. But Sprague struck out the next three batters and whiffed the side in the third, fifth, and seventh innings as well.
Pinkerton pitcher Walalis also had a good game, holding Londonderry to single runs in the first and second innings and a modest total of six hits.
“She has worked hard this year,” said Abbott. “She didn’t get too much action last year, but she’ll be important for us this year.”
Every Pinkerton batter except Caitlin Hogan was struck out at least once by Melissa Sprague, but Abbott thinks her Lady Astros will get things done on offense before long.
“I see us as a team that will produce. We just have to find the right balance,” said the coach.