By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – Last season, the Bristol Eastern softball squad was a .500 outfit that displayed flashes of brilliance throughout the campaign.
And the team could see that success increase as the players gain invaluable experience in a very tough Central Connecticut Conference division.
But this Eastern squad has a veteran presence and with skilled players such as Mikayla Martin and Makenzie Jankowski in the mix, another successful campaign and a postseason date should be in the cards.
Let’s dive into the season that Bristol Eastern should be able to enjoy:
Head Coach: Scott “Red Eye” Redman (5th year)
Overall Record: 42-43
Last season’s Ledger: 9-12 overall, 5-3 CCC South (3rd place)
2016 Tournament: Ranked 27th in the Class LL fray, the Eastern battled but fell to No. 6 Amity in first round play by a 6-1 final.
All Conference Performers from 2016: Anna Kelley, Charline Plasczynski
Strength: Experience, returning line-up
Key Losses: Charline Plasczynski (C/SS); Anna Kelly (OF).
Players to Watch: Mikayla Martin (sr., 3B/UTL); Nicole D’Amato (sr., 3B, injured); Makenzie Jankowski (sr.; CF); Jillian Maghini (sr., LF); Jordan Fitzsimons (jr., SS, injured); Paige McLaughlin (so, C/IF), Lexie Mastroianni (sr., UTL), Erin Girard (fr., P), Taylor Keegan (fr., 2B/OF), Alyssa Hackling (fr., 3B/C/OF), Lauren Aparo (fr., 1B), Emily Marquis (so., OF), Ali Rivoira (so., P/OF).
What to expect from the Lancers: Eastern lost of little bit in terms of its roster from the 2016 campaign – Western Connecticut State University’s Charline Plasczynski in particular – and with a couple other athletes not coming out for softball this season, Redman must turn to a corps of freshman ball players once again.
A lack of depth seems to be a staple of the Bristol Eastern softball program but the veterans who returned to the fold are experienced, good players that won’t only be the leaders of the team but can do a little damage at the plate as well.
Simply put, Redman wants to get the season underway, get the players a little experience and everything else should quickly fall into place.
He’s going to install freshman Erin Girard at pitcher right away along with other first year players Taylor Keegan (second base/outfield), Alyssa Hackling (catcher/third base/outfield), and Lauren Aparo (first base).
Once those youngsters get into some games, it should all work out for the Lancers though the squad might take a few lumps along the way.
“We expect to get better as the season goes on,” said Redman. “We are expected to start four freshmen in the infield at the start of the infield, including Girard in the circle, so there may be some growing pains early but they are all talented players that should grow into their own. We will need our experience to balance the young guns and hopefully blend together quickly.”
“Expectations for the year are really tough to predict. I expect to make the tournament and be above .500 but that will not come automatically.”
Jankowski is a bit of a speedster at centerfield and Redman expects her to takes the reins in the outfield once again.
The team will also enjoy the services of senior Mikayla Martin, another jack of all trades softball standout, that can, literally, man positions all over the field.
Nicole D’Amato is injured but plays a mean third base and can hit for average.
She’s been improving over the years as a member of the squad, especially on defense, and the senior should be one of the top hitters on the squad.
And then another player trying to shake the injury bug is junior shortstop Jordan Fitzsimons, also one of the Lancers’ defensive standouts.
That foursome has all the tools and will lead Eastern into some CCC South battles.
“Jankowski, Martin, D’Amato have a lot of experience, along with Maghini and Fitzsimons, and they will need to be consistent all year,” said Redman.
But a couple youngsters earned their stripes last season and will truly benefit the program.
Feisty sophomore Paige McLaughlin (catcher/outfield) is an excellent three-sport athlete, while sophomores Emily Marquis (outfield) and Ali Rivoira (outfield/pitcher) will also factor into the mix as will senior Lexie Mastroianni (utility).
If the team can blend the youth with its veterans, Eastern should be in good shape for the 2017 campaign.
CCC South Outlook: The CCC South Blue is a loaded division once again and Redman sees several competitors in the league.
“Newington has to be the favorite this year in our division,” said Redman. “Bristol Central graduated a ton but has a talented group coming in and replacing them. I think they are next in line and competing with those two are key for any chances at a division crown.”
Big Showdowns of the season: May 1 and May 22 are the tentative dates for the Eastern/Central clash, both starting at 3:45 p.m., while on May 12, Berlin comes to Bristol in what is always a challenging affair.
Bristol Eastern plays its home games from its varsity field at the high school on King Street, directly across from the playground at DeWitt Page Park.