CEDAR GROVE, NJ - By taking the season one game at a time the Cedar Grove Softball Team hopes to achieve greater results than last season.
“We want to win every game everyday. We don’t always think so far ahead. Of course the Conference would be awesome, that’s a main goal for us and to be in those top four teams to compete for a State Championship in Group One…if it’s going to be any year it’s going to be this year,” said Cedar Grove Head coach Nicole Velardi.
The Cedar Grove Softball Team will rely on veteran leadership in 2017 to propel them onto a successful year. Of the 24 players on the roster 12 are upper classmen, nine of which saw action in 2016.
“We have a lot of kids back, we only graduated one senior last year and a majority of our kids are back on the varsity team,” said Velardi.
Cedar Grove will be led by senior centerfielder Rianna Marinelli who is coming off an exceptional year in 2016. Marinelli was a staple in the Panther lineup with a .395 batting average while scoring 25 runs.
“Marinelli is my leadoff hitter so she gets us started offensively,” said Velardi.
Cedar Grove will also have senior leadership at the corner infield position with Daniella Cordasco and Samantha Brancato. Cordasco will hold down first base while Brancato will look to prevent extra base hits at the hot corner of third base. The duo combined for 36 rbi’s and 23 runs scored last season.
“They are definitely key players defensively and offensively,” said Velardi. “All three seniors play important parts besides being vocal leaders.”
On the pitching staff sophomore Mia Faieta returns for a sophomore campaign after a year of growing pains in 2016. Faieta joins junior Kelly Toomey in the rotation after combining for a record of 16-9 with 182 strikeouts.
“With them in my rotation it could be a deadly thing for us. I think we can go far with the lefty-righty combo with our pitchers,” said Velardi.
Joining the veterans will be a host of newcomers looking to make their mark on the varsity program. Freshman pitcher Gianna Kubu leads a group of six freshman incoming to the team who will fight for playing time. Kubu will also double as a shortstop in the field when she’s not pitching.
“Kubu is very versatile, the kid plays third base, shortstop and is just a great player,” said Velardi
Kubu is joined by fellow freshman Juliana Cicala who will spend time behind the plate for the Panthers. The backup backstop is expected to contribute two fold as her coach has boasted her offensive abilities as well as a willingness to learn.
“She’s going to be a big help with her bat and defensively for me,” said Velardi.
Thus far the team has shown solid results in preseason despite a lack of playing time due to the inclement weather. Normally the team would have 10 scrimmages thus far, but has only managed five games due to snowy conditions.
“In our scrimmages we’ve been playing hard, we practice well and if we stay focused I think things could turn out in our favor,” said Velardi.
Cedar Grove will look to fine tune their fundamentals as the season is a few days away. The Panthers will open the season on April 1 at West Orange High School.
“I think we’ll be ready to play. As a team we know what we want and they’re always striving to get better and I think once we kick off we’ll be ready to go,” said Velardi.