Lady Cards softball team ready for encore

Greenwich High School’s Ebba Mark scoops up the ball during Monday’s practice. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Greenwich High School’s Ebba Mark scoops up the ball during Monday’s practice. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Now that the Greenwich High School softball team has experienced its long overdue success in the state tournament, head coach Mary Beth Fratello and the rest of the Lady Cardinals are looking to feed off last year’s season and reach new heights this time around.

“Last year we qualified for the state tournament for the first time in a long time and beat the defending class LL champion in the first round,” Fratello said. “We are going to try to carry that momentum to this year because this year we want to also qualify for FCIACs. We missed out last year by a game or two and there are some teams out there that we have to make sure we beat.”

Last year Greenwich advanced to the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference class LL tournament as the No. 23 seed and had a tall order, traveling up to West Hartford for a game against defending class LL champions Conard.

Instead of wilting under the pressure and the heat, Big Red had strong pitching and timely hitting, and it netted a 7-3 victory over the Chieftains for Greenwich’s first state tournament victory since the 2004 season.

“Last year really boosted their confidence that they could beat a defending state champion,” Fratello said. “The experience they got will really help this year’s team.”

This year’s Lady Cardinals will be led by senior captains Alison Kach and Ebba Mark. Kach will be returning as Greenwich’s main pitcher and Mark will be the leader in the infield at first base.

“They both have a lot of experience with this team,” Fratello said. “They both have been three-year varsity starters. Ebba was an outfielder and now has been our first baseman for the past two years. Alison was our pitcher last year and got a year of experience on the mound. Their dedication should rub off on the kids this year.”

This year Kach will be on the mound for her second varsity season and is ready for whatever competition comes her way.

“She’s a year older, has been taking pitching lessons and has been playing since our season ended last year,” Fratello said. “She’s on a summer team and in a fall league. She’s been pitching non-stop since last season. Her velocity is up a lot from last year. She throws hard, but also has multiple pitches.”

Joining Kach on the infield will be Mark, who will be positioned at first base.

Greenwich’s Rebecca Decarlo fires the ball to first during practice Monday. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Greenwich’s Rebecca Decarlo fires the ball to first during practice Monday. — Paul Silverfarb photo

“It’s great to help the defense if there are any mistakes or if there is a letdown Ebba will be there,” Fratello said. “It takes a lot of pressure off of Alison to have Ebba leading the defense.”

In addition to Mark at first, Erin Ferguson will be the team’s catcher. Sophomore Colleen Bennett will be the team’s second baseman. Rebecca Decarlo, who played second base last year, will move over to shortstop this season and replace Erica Ambrogio, a four-year starter and All-FCIAC staple who graduated. Covering the hot corner will be Kaitlyn Gowans.

“It’s basically a returning infield, other than Rebecca moving over to short and Colleen playing second,” Fratello said. “Rebecca has huge shoes to fill this year, as she will taking over where Erica Ambrogio played. That’s going to be a major adjustment for both Rebecca and the rest of the team. Overall the infield has a lot of experience and they are going to be huge for us.”

Greenwich’s outfield is going to be a question mark, as there aren’t a bunch of familiar faces. Madison Burhans will be playing center field, while right field will be occupied by Jenn Ambrogio. There is currently a battle for the starting spot in left field, as Amy Fratello and Erin White look to gain the starting spot.

“It’s a young outfield,” Fratello said. “Madison played last year, but was in left field and is moving over to center this year. Jenny got some playing time, but she’s going to be playing right field all the time. The outfield will be a work in progress.”

According to Fratello, Big Red’s offense should be strong. The head coach said that it’s important that the team gets those key hits, in addition to making sure that those hits come in bunches.

“We can’t stagger hits out,” Fratello said. “We need to string a couple in a row. It’s not going to help if we get a base hit and then two quick outs. We need to keep the hits coming. We are going to try a little bit of everything. We are going to do whatever it takes to get that run in. We have to be more aggressive on the base paths if we need that. We will use the power hitting from Allison, Ebba and Erin.”

While the team’s infield will be the strength, Fratello knows the team needs to improve on its mental approach.

“I want them to constantly improve,” Fratello said. “The mental part is huge for us and that’s been our major problem in the past. Physically we can do it, but every now and then we get into those crunch situations and there is a little bit of a breakdown. I am hoping we can get out of that mentality this year.”

With the Lady Cardinals aiming toward another appearance in not only the class LL tournament but also the FCIAC tournament, Fratello knows it won’t be an easy task.

“It’s going to be tough because Darien, Westhill, St. Joe’s, Stamford, and the Fairfield schools are going to be strong teams again,” Fratello said. “It seems like it’s the same teams that are winning over and over. We are trying to get up there and compete with them as well. There’s really not an easy team in the league. Nothing is going to come easy for us. All 20 games are going to be a fight to the finish.”

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