By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The St. Paul Catholic softball teams has all the makings of a Naugatuck Valley League contender and the outfit should expect some big things in 2017.
Ace pitcher Alessandra Milardo returns to the fold and offensive juggernaut Brigid Johndrow is a senior who always seems to rise to the challenge and produce.
And with the right blend of offense and defense, look for the Falcons to match, and even improve upon, last season’s 14-win campaign.
Let’s look at the Falcons program for 2017:
ST. PAUL CATHOLIC
Head Coach: Gary Hovhanessian (13th season)
Overall Record: 135-120
Last season’s Ledger: 14-8 overall, 13-7 NVL ledger
2016 Tournament: The 15th rated squad in the Class S fray, the Falcons fell in the second round to No. 2 Thomaston in a very competitive 3-2 outing.
Strength: Pitching, veteran performers
Players to Watch: Abby Aldieri (jr., UTL), Brigid Johndrow (sr., CF/SS/C, Captain), Bianca DiLernia (sr., ULT), Hannah Kosikowski (jr., UTL), Alessandra Milardo (sr., P/1B/UTL, Captain), Rebecca Nerbonne (so., OF/UTL), Cari Marchak (so., OF/UTL), Ashley Crowley (jr., OF/UTL), Melissa Lopez (jr., INF,UTL), Jessica Persechino (so., SS/P/UTL), Lindsey O’Bright (jr., C/OF/3B), Abby Poirot (so., 3B/P/UTL), Katelynn Ouellette (jr., 1B/3B/C), Brooke Perez (sr., 2B/INF, Captain).
What to expect from the Falcons: The Falcons have several critical components back from its successful 2016 campaign and expect the outfit to compete for a league title.
The program only lost two seniors from last season and all the big guns are back in the fray.
There’s captain Brigid Johndrow and the senior can and will play defense from a multitude of positions.
As a junior, her statistical numbers were off the page and in terms of offense, she was one of the best players the NVL had to offer.
She’s coming off a season in which she went 44-of-72 at the plate for an incredible batting average of .611 that included six doubles, three triples, four homers and 44 RBI.
Johndrow also scored 45 runs and should be the offensive leader for the Falcons once again.
She underscored how well the St. Paul Catholic offense performed last year as the team carried an excellent .346 batting average for the season.
And on the pitching front, Alessandra Milardo is a veteran of so many NVL wars.
Last season, Milardo appeared in all but one game and went a slick 12-8 overall, carrying a neat 2.64 ERA.
She struck out 141 batters, walked just 30 and limited opponents to a .244 average over her junior campaign.
Milardo pitched a bulk of the team’s innings (114.2) and yielded just 117 hits and 43 earned runs along the way and she’ll do the same this year.
Second baseman, senior Brooke Perez, batted .373 last year including 19 hits and eight RBI while Milardo herself was a .385 batter with 30 hits and 24 RBI – displaying the complete softball package.
Other offensive standouts that should factor into the mix this year includes senior Bianca DiLernia (.269 average, seven hits, six RBI), junior Lindsey O’Bright (.397, 31 hits, 26 RBI), junior Katelynn Ouellette (.271, 19 hits, 14 RBI), and sophomores Jessica Persechino (.303, 20 hits, 17 RBI) and Abby Poirot (.280, 14 hits, eight RBI).
One of the strengths to the program is the versatility of its players as numerous athletes can be swapped to multiple positions and that will certainly come in handy in tight situations.
NVL Outlook: The Falcons play in a very competitive league that is top heavy in talented softball squads.
St. Paul Catholic will be challenged by the likes of Naugatuck, Seymour and even Oxford.
Big Showdowns of the season: St. Paul Catholic gets an early test with Naugatuck this Friday at 4 p.m. on the road while the Falcons tangles with Seymour on Monday, April 17 from Bristol, also at 4 p.m.
The locals have two games over the final ten days of the season (weather permitting) that could intrigue, both from Bristol.
On May 15, Oxford comes to town and on May 25, CCC power Farmington invades St. Paul Catholic.