NORTH SALEM, N.Y.— It will be difficult to repeat North Salem’s magical run to the Class C regional final last season, as the Tigers must tweak their game plan a bit.
“We’ve got a totally different vibe on this club,” said North Salem veteran coach Bob Mittelstadt, who enters his 32nd season. “We have an older core of juniors who have played the past few years and will make or break how we do.”
Shutdown ace Stasia Pennacchio, who now pitches at SUNY Albany, has graduated and will surely be missed. Authoritative hitters in Haley Donovan and Livia Dworaczyk have also gone the cap and gown route.
“We really have to be a working team,” Mittelstadt said. “Last year we relied on a few studs like Haley and Anastasia. This year we’ve all got to mesh and become a team, which is fun.”
The only two seniors left on the roster are pitcher/infielder/outfielder Maggie Boardman and first baseman Lindsey McSweeney. With nine of the 12 juniors on the team returning, the Tigers still have pop in their bats.
“I like the idea that nine girls together for four years have the opportunity to play together,” Mittelstadt said. “It is a testament to the juniors that they really want to keep us a traditionally competitive team.”
Returning sophomore catcher Kasey Harmon will contribute too after gapping her share of doubles last season. Designated hitter Victoria Rienzi is also expected to clear the fence a few times in 2017.
North Salem, however, is expected to have more of a slap-hitting lineup, featuring captains Boardman and junior shortstop Alina DiMella.
“I’m not a dominant pitcher,” Boardman said. “So we need to work off our strengths and have a tight defense. I want to be as great as we were last year and it is such a different dynamic this year. It’s so important for us to work together and it will be interesting to see how we do it.”
Junior Claire Bonzani plans to grow at the plate, and will switch to third base from the outfield.
“We will hit the ball well,” Mittelstadt said. “Our pitching should be okay. The defense is the x-factor. If we can be a better than average fielding team, we can do great things.”
Playing left field once again will be junior Daniella Jacobsen. Fellow junior Olivia DiSanto has gotten the nod in center field while Hannah Houlihan is going to play right field. Natalie Intrieri is set to back-up DiSanto in center.
“Olivia DiSanto could be the sleeper,” Mittelstadt said. “It’s her third year on varsity and her time to blossom.”
Rounding out the rest of the infield, McSweeney is at first base and will also pitch sometimes. Both Mikaela Spennicchia and Charlie Reiner are competing for the second base job.
“Everybody knows their role from the get-go,” Mittelstadt said. “We have to do it together to be a really good team. There is a team cohesiveness and a sense of purpose.”
Mittelstadt and his Tigers have new Class C opponent Pawling to play twice this season as well. He is only 12 victories away from his 400th at the helm of an established program.
North Salem opens up at Westlake on Friday, March 31, at 4:30 p.m. and hosts Irvington on Saturday at 11 a.m.
“We definitely have potential,” DiMella said. “We are moving a lot of stuff around and we just need to find balance so we are comfortable.”