Law’s versatilty, strong defense right of spring

Jonathan Law’s Michaela Sullivan (outfield), Grace Kantor (outfield) and Nicolina Salanto (catcher) are team captains.

Jonathan Law’s Michaela Sullivan (outfield), Grace Kantor (outfield) and Nicolina Salanto (catcher) are team captains.

Bill Bloxsom / Hearst Connecticut Media

Law softball coach Melanie Blude doesn’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole. Now in her 17th active season, Blude plugs players into positions that best suit the individual and team.

“They may come to us playing a certain position, but they are athletes. We look to develop them to play positions that we need. We’ve been lucky to have versatile players,” said Blude, who comes into the year with 193 wins. “We graduated shortstop Maddie Lula (now at Mercy College). We do have Talia Salanto, a sophomore who pitched last year, and Mady Bull, a freshman pitcher that can both play shortstop. Now one can be in the circle and the other at shortstop.”

Pitching dominates all levels of softball.

“Talia and Mady are effective pitching in their own way. Talia has a lot of movement of her pitchers. She has an incredible drop ball that can make batters look silly. Mady has more power and speed to go with her other pitches. It is a nice duo.”

Nicolina Salanto will do the catching.

Blude said: “Nicolina is a junior captain. She is our foundation. She is an incredible leader. She calls every pitch of the game. She is vocal and everyone rallies to her. Nic is one of top catchers in the league. Nicolina, Talia and Mady are always one step ahead of what happens is a game.”

Defense has been paramount to Law’s success.

“We’ve had good pitching, but we’ve never had pitchers that can take care of 15 outs themselves (striking out batters),” said Blude, whose team put together a 13-5 season and advanced to the Class M quarterfinals a year ago. “Our defense knows they have got to make 17 to 21 outs a game. We work very hard on that focus. That means moving players into certain positions.”

Blude likes the way her infield is shaping up.

“Elizabeth Roos is a shortstop who we worked on the opposite side (second base) the last couple years. She has quick hands and instincts,” she said. “Courtney Hansen plays middle infield in the summer. She has a good glove and a strong arm for us at third.

“The last couple seasons that we played we’ve used a senior at first base. That means each year you have got to find another. This year we had Haley Oliver come to us as a transfer from Foran. She played third over there. She grew up playing first base so that is where she will be here. She is a junior so we will have her for two years, which is a bright spot.”

Senior captain Grace Kantor heads up the outfield.

“Grace Kantor was in left last year, where she was All-State. We may move her to right because more balls are being hit that way. She can play either corner,” Blude said. “We return Paige Jolley to center. Grace Hess, who was our designated hitter and got time out there last year can play left field. Michaela Johnson, a senior captain, is another outfielder. Plus, we have a couple of freshmen who can play there. Our bench is spirited, which is the first thing you are for. Madison Lusignan can help hitting off bench and we have speed for running purposes.”

Blude is looking for a carryover effect from last season.

“Because of how many starters we have returning, we walk into the season excited,” she said. “This is an incredible group of girls. They’ve bonded and they will build on those great relationships. Part of winning is enjoying playing softball together and I believe we are second to none in that regard.”

Blude shared how her pitching battery handles adversity.

She said: “There was a home run hit off Tal Salanto against East Haven. I looked out and she just laughed. I looked at her sister Nicolina and she said: ‘Drop ball that didn’t drop.’ They don’t get frustrated. They shake it off and move on. When our pitchers think a ball call should have been a strike, they laugh it off. They have great attitudes. I tell both our pitchers and the catchers that the umpires may call 200 pitches a game. They are going to miss some. If they get eight wrong that is still over 90 percent, not too shabby for a human being. Find what they like to call and attack that part of the zone.”

william.bloxsom@hearstmediact.com Twitter: @blox354