Three weeks ago we wondered whether a balanced pack of contenders could keep up with the St. Joseph softball team. Who might be this year’s New Canaan, which as the sixth seed defeated the Cadets last season for the school’s first championship in the sport.
We are still wondering.
As we reach the halfway point — the other seasons seem like middle- or long-distance races but the spring is always a 100-meter dash — there have been few surprises to date.
The Cadets have lived up to their billing, rolling to a 9-0 start, outscoring opponent by a 106-10 margin. Most of their biggest league games, though, have yet to be played.
St. Joseph has appeared like a giant eclipse, enough so that the temptation is to say remove it from the equation and you would have a wide open race.
That may yet prove to be the case, but at this point it would serve as an injustice to a number of teams having very strong seasons. Since losing to Stamford on opening day, Fairfield Ludlowe has run off eight straight wins. That includes one over Darien, the only blight on the Blue Wave’s record.
Stamford’s only league loss was to the Cadets, while Greenwich fell out of the unbeaten club on Friday following a 1-0 loss to Westhill.
It is a tight race: just two games separate the teams that would occupy the top seven playoff spots if the season ended today.
There is still a lot of softball to be played, and the guess here is that some separation is forthcoming.
Nothing yet has dimmed the Cadets’ luster. But there are a number of teams out there suited to be cast as this year’s New Canaan.
We will break down the eight teams we think will be invited to the FCIAC Tournament dance.
But first, a little midseason hardware.
Most Valuable Player
Erika Osherow, Darien. There have been so many notable performances. Brenna Martini at Fairfield Ludlowe. Lauren Pitney, Tori Ceballos and Nicole Williams at St. Joseph. But if there has been one common thread to the teams at the top of the standings, it has been collaborative efforts, the reliance, as coaches like to say and love even more to see, of contributions from everyone. That includes Darien. But if you judge most valuable as the removal of a player that would cause the most serious setback to a team, then the winner right now is Osherow. She has been perfect on the mound, or sometimes settled for the no-hitter. She hit against Trumbull last week what we are betting is the longest home run of the year so far. More poised and polished over the first weeks than a year ago, when she was a sophomore thrust into the spotlight, Osherow is a dangerous dual threat.
Coach Of The Year
Tony Esposito, Stamford. With all due respect to Mary Beth Fratello, whose Greenwich team has surpassed high expectations, and Shari Paci and Cary Nadel, who have made strong debuts at, respectively, Ludlowe and Trumbull, Esposito has done a wondrous job with the Black Knights, who were hit hard by graduation losses, rely on a number of underclassmen and has been without their catcher and now has lost their starting pitcher for an unspecified period of time.
Game Of The Year
Greenwich 17, Fairfield Warde 16, 11 Innings. If Frank Capra scripted high school softball, even he could not have dreamed up this comeback for the ages, as the Cardinals overcame a 14-0 deficit and rallied twice in extra innings before Madison Burhans ended a three-hour marathon with a two-run double in the 11th inning. Best supporting actress awards go to Erin Ferguson, who had five hits; Jessie Schelz, who yielded just two runs in seven innings of relief; and Rebecca DeCarlo, who hit a three-run homer during a 10-run fourth inning.
Predicted Order Of Finish
1. St. Joseph. The Cadets have been dominating opponents behind the pitching of Williams, a sophomore, and potent top-to-bottom hitting, led by Pitney and Ceballos. Ludlowe, Darien, Greenwich and Trumbull still await on the schedule.
2. Fairfield Ludlowe. Martini is as feared as any hitter in the conference and Brigette Anderson has pitched well. The Falcons have a veteran lineup and has used that experience to their advantage.
3. Darien. Osherow gets the most attention, but the Blue Wave put up runs behind a balanced attack that includes Julia Domiziano, Rebecca DeMaio and Kelly Vodola.
4. Greenwich. The Cardinals were considered a sleeper coming into the year and have proved to be even better than expected. A good measuring stick comes on Friday with a trip to St. Joseph.
5. Trumbull. The Eagles are the wildcard team, full of young talent. Good enough to contend now? They took Ludlowe to extra innings and were soundly beaten by Darien after giving up seven first-inning runs. Christie Costello has been one of the league’s top leadoff hitters and Marisa Valenti and Sam Platz have been a solid 1-2 punch on the mound. The guess here is the outcome of games with Stamford and Westhill will decide the 5-7 spots in the playoffs.
6. Stamford. The Black Knights’ young guns have come through, and will be tested even more with the loss of pitcher Christina Joannou, who has a pulled hamstring. A big boost will come with the return of catcher Colleen Adams. They are a week away from a four-game stretch against Ludlowe, Westhill, Trumbull and Greenwich.
7. Westhill. The Vikings have stayed tough in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Sadie Apfel has been pitching well, and the 1-0 win against the Cardinals was a good statement. They can play with anybody, and will need to with a difficult second-half schedule.
8. Danbury. The Hatters have been all over the place thus far, with their best win a 5-4 decision over Westhill. A majority of the most difficult games are in the rear-view mirror, which means the chance to get traction over the next few weeks.