Softball

Preview: Cadets Focused On A Delayed Three-Peat

Brittany Mairano is one of St. Joseph’s returning veterans. (Matt Dewkett)

After a one-season hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, high school softball is back this spring and though the rosters for most teams have significantly changed since the 2019 season, some of the same powerhouse squads are expected to challenge for the FCIAC championship.

St. Joseph has captured five of the last six FCIAC titles and enjoyed a perfect 2019 regular season, registering an eye-opening record of 20-0, before claiming the conference championship. 

Trumbull rolled to a regular season record of 19-1 in 2019 and lost to St. Joseph in the FCIAC final — the second straight season it was defeated by the Cadets in the title game. 

Sure, the Cadets and Eagles sport new-look rosters from two seasons ago, but they also have some newcomers who will aid their respective squads and the underclassmen from 2019 are eager to make their mark.

The FCIAC isn’t just a two-team league when it comes to title contenders though. Stamford, Fairfield Ludlowe, Staples and Ridgefield are among the squads that have climbed the ladder of success in recent seasons and each team has a group of experienced players primed to make an impact.

Opening day, which features a St. Joseph-Trumbull matchup, is Saturday.

The Favorite

Coached by Jeff Babineau, St. Joseph has been one of the teams to beat in the FCIAC for a decade. The Cadets topped Trumbull for the FCIAC title in 2018 and 2019 and also won the conference crown in 2014-16. St. Joseph, which was defeated by East Haven in the Round of 16 of the Class L Tournament in 2019, after winning the Class M title in 2018, has a standout pitcher in junior Lauren Wasikowski, who has committed to play softball at Hofstra. 

Anchoring the infield is senior Maddy Fitzgerald, an All-FCIAC First Team selection in 2019. Fitzgerald, also an All-State honoree in 2019, was a tough out her entire sophomore season, as she batted .518, with three home runs and 44 hits. She will continue her softball career at Bryant University. Her freshman season saw her hit .449 for the Cadets.

With a number of big hits, Trumbull senior Cassi Barbato had done a lot of smiling. (Matt Dewkett)

The Contenders

Trumbull, which lost just once during the regular season in 2019 and advanced to the semifinal round of the CIAC Class LL Tournament (a 5-2 loss against Southington), should have a powerful lineup with the return of senior Cassi Barbato and Mackenzie Bruggeman, both of whom earned All-FCIAC accolades in 2019.

The Eagles, coached by Jacqui Sheftz, have appeared in the FCIAC championship game the past two seasons and are seeking their first FCIAC title since 2010.

Stamford, which earned a 16-4 regular season record and advanced to the Class LL Tournament quarterfinals in 2019, have an ace pitcher in right-hander Kim Saunders. A senior, Saunders had a 2.12 ERA as a sophomore in 2019 and has also helped power Stamford at the plate, batting a robust .439 with three home runs. A versatile player, Saunders can also play several positions when needed.

Coached by Melissa Giordano, Stamford, which last won the FCIAC title in 2006, should also be aided offensively by senior catcher Sarah Wargo.

Fairfield Ludlowe has one of the top lineups in the conference, with seniors Allie Clark, Caitlyn Romero and Madeline Reyes in the order. A sure-handed shortstop, Clark, an All-FCIAC selection as a sophomore, batted .508 in 2019 with 30 hits in 59 at-bats. Romero, who also earned All-FCIAC honors as a sophomore, is coming off a season in which she hit .382, while playing a solid first base. 

Reyes, a centerfielder, hit .370 as a sophomore.

Ludlowe shortstop Allie Clark batted .508 two years ago. (Mark Conrad)

The Sleepers

Ridgefield, which ended its 2019 season strong (12-8 regular season record), return senior Alyssa DeStefano, one of the FCIAC’s premier pitchers. DeStefano was a Second Team All-FCIAC selection in 2019. Skylar Arent, a senior centerfielder/pitcher who is coming off a sensational sophomore season, powers the Tigers’ lineup. Staples (11-9 in 2019), led by Gabby Lantier and Jen Westphal, has the potential to make its mark in the league, as does Fairfield Warde (12-8 in 2019) with the return of senior infielder Avery Yardis (will play at Marymount University next season) and senior catcher Avery Gabrenas (will compete at Western Connecticut State). Greenwich (13-7 in 2019) has the top power hitter in the FCIAC in senior catcher Olivia McClammy, who smashed 15 home runs as a sophomore in 2019, while Norwalk (10-9 two seasons ago) should be in the hunt for a berth in the FCIAC Tournament with the return of junior Benni Tucci (second base), who was among the FCIAC’s hits leaders as a freshman. Danbury, which usually has a potent lineup, brings back Hayley Gundeck (.387 average in 2019) and Gianna Iaquinto (committed to play at Hofstra).

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20 Players To Watch

  • Skylar Arent, Ridgefield
  • Cassi Barbato, Trumbull
  • Ava Biscotto, New Canaan
  • Mackenzie Bruggeman, Trumbull
  • Allie Clark, Fairfield Ludlowe
  • Alyssa DeStefano, Ridgefield
  • Maddy Fitzgerald, St. Joseph
  • Avery Gabrenas, Fairfield Warde
  • Hayley Gundeck, Danbury
  • Gianna Iaquinto, Danbury
  • Gabby Lantier, Staples
  • Olivia McClammy, Greenwich
  • Madeline Reyes, Fairfield Ludlowe
  • Caitlyn Romero, Fairfield Ludlowe
  • Kim Saunders, Stamford
  • Benni Tucci, Norwalk
  • Sara Wargo, Stamford
  • Lauren Wasikowski, St. Joseph
  • Jen Westphal, Staples
  • Avery Yardis, Fairfield Warde

The Lineups

Danbury: P Mya Cefaloni; P Lila Schlissel; C Kaylee Drago; P Sophia Fenaroli; IF Kendall McNamara; IF Emily Stefanelli; IF Gianna Iaquinto; IF Reagan Lalor; OF Hayley Gundeck; OF Cassandra Plank-Pinho; OF Ashley Rugen; OF Abby Torres

Darien: Maddie Conte; Melanie Vernal; OF Livie Punishill; IF Kallie Halvorsen; IF Brooke Romano; P/IF Blake Wilks; P Molin Medeiras; Ella Wadleigh; Noelle Cooke

Greenwich: C Olivia McClammy; P Kayla Darling; 1B Chloe Smith; 3B Megan Geiger; SS Mia Gangi; 2B Kate Friedman; OF Madison Murphy; OF Ciarra Castro

Fairfield Ludlowe: P Alex Lewey; P Anna Gedacht; C Caitlyn Romero; SS Allie Clark; CF Maddy Reyes; 2B Elena Ohe; LF Chelsea Villar; RF Della Jackson; 3B Grace Geary; 3B Katie Tournas; 1B Ellie Galaggi; 1B Grace Mozolewski

Fairfield Warde: IF Vinchenza Andretta; IF Avery Yardis; P Gabby Mercado; IF Allie Ortiz; OF Alyssa Russo; C Avery Gabrenas; C Julia Minichini; OF Caitlin Pires; OF Meredith Stewart; OF Anna DeWitt; P Margaux Forget; OF Elizabeth Sargeant

New Canaan: C/OF Kendall Somma; C/OF Taylor Flowers; 1B Hannah Moore; 2B Lina Welch; SS Christina Sinatra; 3B Ava Biasotti; OF Faith Hibbert; OF Lauren Mellas; P Ava Biasotti; P Faith Hibbert; P Lina Welch; Hannah Swimm OF; Taylor Del Carmine OF; Mia Sanseverino INF/P; Mackenzie Hart IF; Sarah Buckner IF; Amanda Rashad IF/OF; Kara Braccio IF; Nicole Luchetta IF; Alyssa Gerardi C/3B; Kendall Lawler OF

Norwalk: P Lizzie Scott; P Vicky Rupar; C Olivia Bamford; C Angel Salvato; 1B Izzy Aravanitis; 2B Benni Tucci; 3B Sam Pierre; 3B Olivia Bamford; SS Emily Whelan; LF Georgia Mendola; CF Field Brie Muro; RF  Brianna Otto; RF Dylan Ackerman

Ridgefield: 2B LB Coury; SS Yael Everrett; P Alyssa DeStefano; CF/P Skylar Arent; 1B Maddy Pickett; 3B/P Caroline Imbrogno; OF Natalie Sganga; OF Maddy Brown; C Lucy Thomas

Staples: SS, P Grace Alfero; CF Jill Backus; 1B Olivia Bernard; LF Caroline Coffey; RF Gabby Lantier; C, SS, 2B, Kate Mcdonald; 2B Miranda Rodriguez; 1B Ally Schwartz; P Tasha Taubenheim; 3B Ava Vincini; C Jennifer Westphal

Stamford: P Kim Saunders; C Sarah Wargo; OF Kate Hogan; OF Sam Albert; OF Theresa DiBlasio; OF Morgan Comstock; IF Cassie Robotti; IF Charli Karukas; IF Christina Zinicola; IF Ansley Carrero; IF Maddie Samela; Jordan Rossi

St. Joseph: P Lauren Wasikowski; P Brooke Buzzeo; C Niamh Dougherty; 1B Riley McDermott; 2B Mia Alicea; 3B CoCo Bartone; SS Maddy Fitzgerald; OF Claire Gardella; OF Brittany Mairano

Westhill: IF Maddy Bautista; OF Stephanie Carrillo; P Francesca Deleo; C Kirsten Hallinan; OF Kylee Kurtz; OF Kara Sciglimpaglia; IF Morgan Veltri; Morgan Wainwright; Brianna Cardona; IF Rylie Noto; P Ava Smeriglio; IF Riley Sullivan; OF Sophia Wenz Bazan

Wilton: SS Hannah Lifrieri; Ashlyn Manfro; C Brooke Bohacs; Caitlin Wallace.

(Teams missing did not reply to repeated requests for information)