Changes abound in SWC softball

The winds of change swept across the SWC softball landscape in the off-season and left a trail of question marks in their wake, as last year's two conference tournament finalists have both left for other conferences and three teams welcomed new head coaches.

Defending conference champion Oxford left for the Naugatuck Valley League, while runner-up Lauralton Hall bolted for the Southern Connecticut Conference; Oxford had beaten Lauralton 2-0 in nine innings at DeLuca Field in Stratford last May.

Perennial contender Masuk, meanwhile, saw coach Jacqui Sheftz resign after 14 triumphant years at the end of last season, and she has been replaced by Leigh Barone. Richie Abramson has taken the reins at Bethel, while former Hofstra University star Sara Michalowski is the new coach at Barlow.


Brianna Antonazzo, Pomperaug, senior, 1B/OF -- Team captain batted .409 (27-for-66) last year with two homers, 28 RBIs, 17 runs scored and nine stolen bases...Was nearly perfect defensively, committing only three errors in 185 chances for a .984 fielding percentage...Earned All-SWC honors last year and All-Colonial Division honors two years ago.

Avery Kelly, New Milford, sophomore, SS -- Earned All-Colonial Division last year as a freshman...Batted .435 (27-for-62) with three homers, eight triples and 15 RBIs...Posted a .940 fielding percentage, making only six errors in 100 chances while tallying 59 assists...Will be one of the Green Wave's top returning hitters, with All-SWC player Kelsey Fuchs now playing at Western Connecticut State University.

Katie Laaksonen, Newtown, junior, 3B -- All-State and All-SWC player last year...Batted .487 with 38 hits and 32 RBIs to go along with a .529 on-base percentage, 12 doubles, seven triples and a homer.

Briana Marcelino, Barlow, sophomore, P/SS -- Barlow's Rookie of the Year last year batted .492 (29-for-59) with seven doubles, two homers, 17 RBIs and five stolen bases...Posted a .943 fielding percentage, making only three errors in 53 chances with 42 assists...Pitched 29 innings and compiled a 2-1 record with a 5.07 earned-run average...Earned All-Colonial Division honors last year.

Jordan O'Connor, New Fairfield, senior, SS -- Batted .490 (24-for-49) last year with eight doubles, a homer, 13 RBIs and 12 stolen bases...Tallied a .958 fielding percentage, making only three errors in 71 chances...Earned All-SWC honors last year and All-Colonial Division two years ago...Will be one of the Rebels' top returning offensive weapons, with All-SWC player Hannah Ford now playing at Sacred Heart University.


Kolbe Cathedral -- The Cougars return a lot of the key pieces -- including some big bats and solid pitching - from last year's team, which earned a spot in the SWC playoffs and lost in extra innings in the second round of the Class S state tournament. Returning All-SWC pitcher Victoria Trentini started 22 games last year and posted an 11-9 record with a 2.62 ERA, striking out 167 batters in 147 innings. She also batted .338. All-Patriot Division catcher/shortstop Kanny Rivera batted .315 with three homers, 10 RBIs and 10 stolen bases, and All-Patriot Division infielder/outfielder/pitcher Alyssa Collazo batted .319.

Masuk -- In 14 seasons under Jacqui Sheftz, the Panthers won three state championships, reached the state semifinals in seven of the last nine years and won six league titles from 2005-13. Leigh Barone takes over looking to continue that winning tradition. She'll have to fill a few gaps left by last year's outgoing seniors, including pitcher Tatum Buckley, a two-time Gatorade State Player of the Year now pitching for Florida Atlantic University, along with All-State players Stephanie Appelberg and Brittany DaMota. So, there will be some new faces leading the way as the Panthers look to pick up where they left off last year, which included a trip to the SWC semifinals and a loss in the Class L second round to Cinderella-story Sacred Heart Academy.

Newtown -- The perennial-contender Nighthawks welcome back a bunch of bats and two solid pitchers from last year's team, which advanced to the SWC semifinals and the second round of the Class LL state tournament -- where it lost to eventual champ Southington. All-State third baseman Katie Laaksonen leads a lineup that also includes second baseman Jill Lasorsa, who batted .463 last year as a freshman, shortstop Mikayla Kuligowski, who batted .382 last year, and speedy center fielder Haley Ryan, who posted a .608 on-base percentage last year. Pitchers Gillian Gallante (eight wins last year) and Lauren Wilcox (seven wins last year) will shoulder the load in the circle.

Notre Dame-Fairfield -- The Lancers were on the right track last year in Ron Barber's first year at the helm, as they qualified for the Class S state tournament for only the second time in more than 10 years and advanced to the quarterfinals. With the bulk of last year's team back, they're hoping to go at least that far -- and add a berth in the SWC playoffs as well. Sophomore pitcher Madison Letizia recorded all 11 wins for the Lancers last season, and All-SWC third baseman Becky Stefanatos is back at the hot corner.

Pomperaug -- The Panthers bring a lot of players back from last year's squad, which played in the SWC playoffs before being upset in the second round of the Class L state tournament by Windsor. Leading the way this year will be captains Brianna Antonazzo, who batted .409 with 28 RBIs last year; Rebecca Meyer, who batted .375 with 20 RBIs and 10 stolen bases; and Erin Ruggiero, who batted .446 with 13 RBIs. Ashley Antonazzo is Pomperaug's most experienced returning pitcher; as a freshman last year, she tossed 48 1/3 innings and posted a 2.61 ERA with 33 strikeouts. Last year's leading pitcher, All-Stater Lauren Reilly, is now playing at St. Joseph's College in Philadelphia.


April 16, 10 a.m., Immaculate at Abbott Tech (Hatters Park) -- It's always fun when these two schools play each other in any sport. Last April, the Mustangs edged their crosstown rivals 9-7.

April 16, 4:15 p.m., Masuk at Newtown -- An early-season tussle between two perennial contenders who hope to be in the title hunt later this spring.

April 17, 4:15 p.m., Pomperaug at Newtown -- Just 24 hours after hosting Masuk, the Nighthawks host Pomperaug in another early-season battle between two contenders.

April 20, 4:15 p.m., New Milford at Barlow -- Both teams cracked the SWC playoffs last year and hope to be in the thick of the nplayoff race again this year.

April 24, 4:15 p.m., Notre Dame-Fairfield at Kolbe Cathedral (Seaside Park) -- A head-to-head matchup of two emerging contenders who showed a lot of promise last year.



Barlow -- Sr. P Emily Marshall (9-2, 2.51); Jr. 1B Zoe Marcelino (.380, 18 RBIs); Jr. OF Gloria Davey (.312); Soph. OF Kristen Acocella (.362, 10 RBIs); Soph. OF Lydia Dazzo; Soph. C Sammy Hilford (.293, 13 RBIs); Soph. SS/P Briana Marcelino (.492, 17 RBIs).

Bethel -- Jr. C Megan Fuller, captain (.403); Jr. 1B Sarah Cardillo, captain; Jr. OF Allison Renner; Jr. P Estafany Tito; Jr. Kayla Guzzetti; Soph. SS Heather Quink (.280); Soph. CF Megan Savitsky; Soph. OF Eden Bruno; Soph. Caroline Crouse; Fr. 3B Christina Franzese; Fr. P Annika Haskett; Fr. P Maria D'Arco; Fr. Renae Gross; Fr. Sara Reseska.

Brookfield -- Sr. 3B Chelsea Coleman, captain; Sr. SS Jess Lionetti, captain; Jr. P Sam O'Brien; Jr. C Dani O'Brien.

Bunnell -- Sr. 3B Melissa Buzan; Jr. C Meghan Uhrynowski; Jr. 1B/OF Katelyn Root; Soph. SS Kylie Zach.

Immaculate -- Sr. SS Brianna Baranowski; Sr. IF Sofia DiCarlo; Sr. OF Sam Stella; Jr. Pitcher Kiley Banks; Jr. IF Sam Budnik; Jr. OF Faith Whitmore; Jr. OF Joanna Vodola; Soph. 2B Isabel Kent; Soph. C Jordan Markward; Fr. Emily Giampietro; Fr. Brittany Hrabesak.

Kolbe Cathedral -- Sr. P/2B Victoria Trentini, captain (11-9, 2.62, 167 Ks; .338, 19 RBIs, All-State); Sr. OF Simone Hopwood; Jr. SS/C Kanny Rivera, captain (.315, 10 RBIs); Jr. 3B/1B/C Tabitha Ortega (.254, 10 RBIs); Jr. OF Alloire Gordon; Soph. 2B/OF/P Alyssa Collazo (.319); Soph. OF/2B Ciarra Jennings.

Masuk -- Jr. CF Hailey Kobza; Jr. C Maggie Lebinski; Jr. 3B Madi Coughlin; Jr. 2B Rachel McGinniss; Jr. LF Becca Tillotson; Fr. SS Aleza Bacoulis.

New Fairfield -- Sr. SS Jordan O'Connor (.490, 13 RBIs, 12 stolen bases); Sr. LF Amanda Webber (.278); Jr. Adriana Webber (.250, 15 RBIs).

New Milford -- Sr. P Kara Golembeski (9-9, 3.87; .364, 15 RBIs; four-year starter); Sr. IF Stephanie Fleet; Sr. CF Emily Delaney (.400); Soph. SS Avery Kelly (.435, 15 RBIs); Fr. C Kaitlin Siegle; Fr. C Olivia Wetmore.

Newtown -- Sr. SS Mikayla Kuligowski (.382); Sr. P Gillian Galante (8 wins); Sr. C Emily Woznick; Jr. 3B Katie Laaksonen (.487, 32 RBIs, All-State); Jr. CF Haley Ryan; Jr. P Lauren Wilcox (7 wins); Soph. 2B Jill Lasorsa (.463).

Notre Dame-Fairfield -- Sr. 3B Becky Stefanatos; Jr. CF/SS Emily Schofield; Jr. 1B/OF Mackenzie Dobbins; Soph. P Madison Letizia; Soph. SS Shelby Nolan; Soph. C Dayniera Artis; Fr. LF Michaela Luk; Fr. 2B Jillian Howe; Fr. RF Brianna Evangelista.

Pomperaug -- Sr. 1B/OF Brianna Antonazzo, captain (.409, 28 RBIs); Sr. CF Erin Ruggiero, captain (.446, 13 RBIs); Jr. SS Rebecca Meyer, captain (.375, 20 RBIs); Jr. C Anabelle Pastoroik (.259); Soph. P Ashley Antonazzo (.371; 2.16); Fr. OF Lusa Rosalies; Fr. P Hailey Latta; Fr. 3B/OF Caley Ruggiero.

Stratford -- Sr. LF Aritza Federici; Sr. RF Lynn Schneider; Sr. P Bailey McIlhoney; Sr. CF Emily Winter; Jr. 3B Jaden Rich; Soph. IF Katie Schneider.

Weston -- Sr. CF Julia Rogers (.443, All-State as a soph.); Sr. 2B/P Olivia Tartaglia; Soph. SS Julia Neufield; Fr. C Jordan Klebenow; Fr. P Annalise Icatar.