Abington Heights, Scranton Prep and Lackawanna Trail each return more than half their starting high school softball lineups while Lakeland returns the most important player from a team that reached the district final.
The presence of those returnees gives each team high hopes for the Lackawanna League season, which got underway last week with action that was limited by weather-related issues.
Abington Heights, Lackawanna Trail and Lakeland each won their openers last week while Scranton Prep lost its first game.
A closer look at each team:
The Lady Comets should be strong in the infield.
Senior shortstop Kelsey Sarafinko, senior first baseman Kat Rosencrance, senior catcher Kiana Sladicki and sophomore second baseman Alex Glockley return as full-time starters.
Senior pitcher/first baseman Claire Lakatos, senior outfielder Alex Dequeroz and sophomore outfielder Alivia Plevyak also have experience as starters.
Sophomore outfielder Alexia Doggett has the most experience among a group of several other players that were on last year’s team. Another, junior Casey Wrobel, has taken over as the starting center fielder.
Abington Heights also has three freshmen. Dominique Emmett and Cassie Toth are competing for the third base spot while Paige Harris will get some time at pitcher.
Making the challenge in little more difficult for the Lady Comets is the presence of Valley View, which went unbeaten into the state semifinals and finals the last two seasons, in Division 1 following realignment.
“Valley View’s been one of the top teams in the state the last three years,” Lady Comets coach John Kelly said. “It’s going to be a difficult league so it’s nice that we have a lot of kids that played.”
Seniors Sabrina Brennan and Olivia Burke, who are entering their third seasons as starting pitcher and shortstop, lead the list of eight returning starters for the Classics.
The other returnees are seniors Jade Cesarini at second base and Kaitlyn Davis at third base; juniors Emily Pritchyk at catcher and Gracie Jenkins in left field and sophomores Bridget Walsh at first base and Dana Miller in right field.
Ilissa Hamilton, a freshman, is expected to be the backup pitcher.
“We should be more of a short game type of team – bunting, slapping, we have some speed,” Scranton Prep coach Jenn Siciliano said. “We should be more effective in that game than we’ve been in the past.”
Scranton Prep joins Abington Heights, Scranton, Valley View and West Scranton in Division 1.
The Lady Chiefs were second to Valley View in Division 2 last season and are part of Division 3 this year.
Senior pitcher Alissa Steier, who is in the circle for the third year, and junior second baseman Morgan Sederovitz are the only returning starters from a team that went to the District 2 Class AA championship game.
Coach Brian Wagner is hopeful that the combination of Steier’s pitching and a promising group of young players will allow Lakeland to contend in a division that also includes Carbondale, Dunmore, Holy Cross, Mid Valley, Old Forge and Riverside.
Steier had a five-hitter without any walks in a 3-1 win over Dunmore in the opener.
“We’re not going to be looked at as a contender because we are so young,” Wagner said. “That’s all right with me.
“We have some very good young players.”
Three freshmen – shortstop Katie Walsh, catcher Georgia Verrastro and right fielder Mariah Loughney – are in the starting lineup.
They are joined by three other players who are back from last year’s team. Senior Rachel Chrzan is in left field while sophomore Courtney Parchinski is in center field and sophomore Barb Verrastro is at third base and serves as the back-up pitcher.
Junior first baseman Steph Bjork is another newcomer to the lineup.
The Lady Lions were second to Montrose in Division 3 last season and expected to be back in the title chase while playing against many of the same opponents in Division 4.
“I think we have a good chance of vying for the title,” Lackawanna Trail coach John Brander said.
Elk Lake and Blue Ridge are other title threats in a division that also features Forest City, Mountain View and Susquehanna.
Senior Brianna Smarkusky is in her third season as Lackawanna Trail pitcher.
Catcher Courtney Ditchey, second baseman Cameron Crock, third baseman Nicole Rosa, outfielders Shelby Croasdale and Gabby Truesdale also return to the starting lineup. Ditchey and Crock are seniors, Rosa and Croasdale are juniors and Truesdale is a sophomore.
Freshman catcher Mackenzie Duffy could be the top addition to the lineup.