NHS Softball Team Hopes To Build On Last year’s Success

Ken Hamwey, Staff Sports Writer
Issue Date: 
May, 2019
Article Body: 

Natick High’s softball team qualified for tournament play last year but the Redhawks bowed out of the playoffs quickly, losing to New Bedford in the first round.
The early exit wasn’t a pleasant situation for coach Alyssa Mabardy’s squad, even though Natick’s appearance in post-season play snapped a five-year tourney drought. This season, Mabardy is aiming to reach three objectives.
“Our goals are to improve daily in practice and games, qualify for the tourney again and to get past the first round,’’ Mabardy said. “I believe we can achieve all three.’’
The Redhawks, who’ve started the new season with a 2-1 record, have nine returnees from last year’s contingent that finished with an overall record of 16-4. Eight players from that team were seniors who’ve graduated.
“Our team this year has power and our defense and pitching are strong,’’ said Mabardy, who’s in her second year as head coach. “We’ve got experience, depth, a high softball IQ and quickness. Five of the nine returnees are seniors and six of the nine started at various times last year. The girls are willing to play any position and that helps to build depth.’’
If Mabardy has a concern, it’s trying to build player confidence. “Our kids are talented and skilled,’’ she emphasized, “but they need to develop a sense of confidence. They just need to relax and depend on their ability.’’
Natick’s senior captains — centerfielder Calla Murphy and pitcher-third baseman Marie Canty — are skilled and possess lots of ability.
“Calla is fast and she’s aggressive in the batter’s box and on the base paths,’’ Mabardy said. “Our leadoff hitter, she hits for power and can also play small ball. Marie, who got credit for most of our wins last year, will start most of our games on the mound. Her control is good and she relies on a fastball, change-up, drop and a curve. At third base, she’s a smooth fielder who’s got good instincts. She’s level-headed and can hit for power.’’
Senior Isabelle Poulack, who can play the outfield or at second base, is versatile, enabling Mabardy to utilize her natural talent in either venue. “Isabelle makes tough plays look easy,’’ she said. “And, she’s got great hands, swings a smooth bat and has range in the infield and outfield.’’
Katie Drurey and Catherine Cormier are seniors who also are versatile. Drurey can play second base or shortstop and Cormier can alternate between catcher and first base.
“Katie has great range, good hands and good speed,’’ Mabardy said. “A power hitter with speed, she’ll bat anywhere from 3-5 in the lineup. Catherine loves the game, is vocal, strong on defense behind the plate and has a capable arm throwing to second base. She can also hit for power.’’
Junior Marina Lyon plays shortstop but also can be utilized in the outfield. “Marina is a switch-hitter who displays power in the batter’s box,’’ Mabardy noted. “She’s a speedster who’s quick, has great range and footwork.’’
Hannah Goldman is another top-notch junior who has impressed Mabardy with her effort at third base and in the outfield. “Hannah is aggressive on the bases and she can hit for power,’’ Mabardy noted. “Third base is a tough position but she plays it smoothly. She’s got a strong arm and keeps errors to a minimum.’’
Lilly Fangel is another catcher who also can play first base. A capable hitter, she’s also adept on defense behind the plate and knows how to handle pitchers. “Lilly and Catherine Cormier both work well as catchers. Lilly has strong hands, frames the plate well, and deals with pitchers effectively. If Lilly is catching, then Catherine usually plays first base.’’
Sophomore Katherine Canty (Marie’s sister) is a pitcher who can also play second base or the outfield. After two weeks of jayvee softball last year, she was promoted to the varsity. “We used Katherine mostly in relief,’’ Mabardy recalled. “But, she did get several starts. Very composed as a freshman last year, her control is good and she relies on a fastball, change-up, drop, curve and a screwball.’’
Four others who’ll be contributing are senior Alison Dischinger (first or third base); sophomore Maddie McCarthy (outfield); and freshmen Juliana Kiley (pitcher/outfield) and Jessica Brill (catcher/infielder).
“Alison is a diligent hard-worker,’’ Mabardy said. “Maddie has a strong bat and is consistent. Juliana supplies lots of effort and she’s versatile. She can throw a fastball, riser or curve. Jessica is determined, a team player and aggressive on the bases.’’
The 30-year-old Mabardy once again will bank on a coaching philosophy that combines a competitive desire to win and a work ethic that aims for players to reach their potential. “Improving from the start of the season to the end is the big goal,’’ Mabardy emphasized. “If winning comes with that objective, then it’s a plus. Enjoying one’s athletic experience is also important.’’
Mabardy is a firm believer that student-athletes can learn valuable life lessons from athletics. “Players can learn excellent lessons like accountability and responsibility, leadership, overcoming adversity, setting goals and being a good teammate,’’ said Mabardy.
There’s little doubt that the current edition of the Redhawks learned some key lessons during the 2018 season. Last year’s 16-4 record was impressive and it also reversed a losing trend that spanned five years.
As Alyssa Mabardy suggests: “It’s time to advance in the playoffs and put Natick softball on the map.’’