BRISTOL – The Bristol Central softball program is coming off a nine-win campaign and in 2019, the Rams hope to continue that upward trend.
The young squad did well in the middle of the 2018 season as Central battled against every opponent – losing eight games last year by just three runs or less.
Indeed, the Rams weren’t far off winning double-figure games but with several spots in the line-up up for grabs to start this year, continued improvement might be slowed a bit.
But with chucker Peyton Greger getting a full season’s worth of work in, Central isn’t going to be an easy loss.
Let’s take a look at the Rams:
Head Coach: Monica Hayes (5th year)
Overall Record: 44-39
Last season’s Ledger: 9-11 overall, 3-5 CCC South Division (second place Patriot Division)
2018 Tournament: No. 21 Bristol Central fell to No. 12 Naugatuck 3-2 in the first round of the Class L tournament.
All Conference Performers from 2017: Peyton Greger, Jenna Ptak (two-times All Conference)
Strength: Returning contributors; Experience
Key Losses: Sierra Reed (OF); Xia’ian Carrasco (OF/1B)
Players to Watch: Kayla Beaulieu (sr., 1B); Gianna Annelli (sr., OF); Peyton Greger (jr., P); Maria Santilli (jr., OF); Brooke Soucy (so., IF); Gwen Torreso (so., IF); Kayla St. Onge (so., UT); Kaylee Hall (jr); Kayleigh Dionne (so., UT); Emily Ericson (so); Sarah Romano (fr, C) Janessa Bartell (so., 3B, injured).
What to expect from the Rams: After a 2-5 start last season, the Rams sprinted towards the finish line by winning seven of 11 games before settling on a 9-11 ledger.
Central then gave No. 12 Naugatuck a real scare in first round play before falling 3-2 in the Class L bracket.
Bristol Central coach Monica Hayes returned some of that line-up for the 2019 campaign but she had to fill in nearly half-a-dozen spots on the roster this spring.
“Due to the lack of returners, I am looking to simply fill five positions at the moment,” said Hayes. “We have many underclassman but they lack experience so it will take time to see improvement, individually, and as a team.”
But the pitcher is back as Peyton Greger is clearly an all-around talent. She batted over .400 for the program last season and on the mound, Greger tallied just north of 100 strikeouts for the nine win program.
“I expect Peyton Greger to continue being herself [which is] competitive and clutch,” said Hayes. “She impressed many people on the mound last season, especially with her poise in pressure situations. We will obviously rely on that and her experience throughout this season.”
Central brought in one heck of a freshmen class last year and now, they’re sophomores with a little experience in their pockets.
That class included infielder Gwen Torreso who chipped in a .300 batting average with 21 hits.
Her improvement comes from the one year better, not one year older category.
And there will be others sophomores that will produce for the Rams’ squad.
Hayes will count on Brooke Soucy (infield), Kayla St. Onge (UT), Kayleigh Dionne (UT) and Emily Ericson among a very strong sophomore class.
“The sophomore class is loaded with quality individuals and are the heart of our program,’ said Hayes. “We are working towards developing them into better softball players and people. They possess a great attitude every day, which makes them truly coachable. Kayleigh, Emily, Brooke, and others will find themselves in the varsity lineup and will have to produce for us to win games. We will look to Gwen for consistency on defense and offense.”
And unfortunately, the Central program will miss the on-field abilities of Janessa Bartell, a talent at third base, due to a knee injury that knocked her out of the entire season in girls basketball.
Others that will contribute to the season includes senior Kayla Beaulieu (first base), senior Gianna Annelli (outfield), Maria Santilli (outfield), and Kaylee Hall.
There’s some good talent among those upperclassmen and with that mix, including those sophomore contributors, the hope is Central can duplicate last season and be a state tournament performer once again.
CCC South, Patriot Division Outlook: It’s still a three-team race until Lewis Mills joins the CCC South, Patriot Division next season.
But for this year, it’s Central, Bristol Eastern, and Plainville and, according to Hayes, the Lancers get the nod as the best team in division play.
“Bristol Eastern is the favorite in my opinion,” said Hayes.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Michael Letendre, email him at MLetendre@BristolObserver.com.