VERONA, NJ - After a solid year in 2016 where they went 12-10 the Verona Softball Team has high expectations for the 2017 spring campaign.

“I think our expectation is to finish towards the top of our division. We’ve kind of finished second or third the last couple of years so it’s a goal of ours to try and win it,” said Verona Head Coach Angela Salisbury.

Verona resides in a tough Super Essex Conference that will challenge them throughout the year. Bloomfield and Caldwell are two of their biggest competitors who look to be atop the standings once again in 2017.

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Currently the team is fine-tuning their skills as the season is a mere week away. After a weekend trip to Florida yielded solid results in an exhibition tournament, Salisbury is pleased with her team’s pre-season development.

“I think just going back to basics is important. A lot of the girls play softball in the fall and in the summer. They have the skills [but] coming together as a team is an important goal of ours…meshing well and trying to find the right combination of girls in certain situations is something that we’ve been working on,” said Salisbury.

The Lady Hillbillies will be predicated on a foundation of pitching that returns a quartet of arms. Junior Renata Primmer returns after notching four victories last season and doubles as a third basemen who averaged almost a run of offense per game. Joining Primmer will be returning senior Kristen Selby who missed 2016 with an injury as well as junior Kate Stanisci and sophomore Christina Colon.

“They each have some strengths so I think in combination they can be a tough group to hit,” said Salisbury.

Both Primmer and Colon will be consistently starting for Verona in 2017 whether at pitcher or the corner infield position. The two underclassmen have each accounted for at least one run per game on average in 2016.

“In tandem [pitching] they’re all going to give me something and when they’re not on the mound they’re going to give me something so that’s a good thing for us,” said Salisbury.

Joining the infield for Verona will be shortstop and offensive juggernaut Amber Reed. Reed connected on over half a dozen homeruns in 2016 while driving in over a run per game. She’s expected to continue her career in college despite being a junior.

“She has a great swing, very natural. When she doesn’t try to do too much that’s when she’s most dangerous,” said Salisbury.

Reed will be flanked by second baseman Kaitlyn Deo to form the team’s double play combination. Finally, senior catcher Meaghan Yates will return to manage the pitching staff and round out the infield unit. The duo has had a strong preseason according to Salisbury.

“They hit really well while we were away,” said Salisbury.

Verona’s outfield will boast three veterans returning to claim their spots in the lineup. While Kate Stanisci will double in the corner outfield when she’s not pitching seniors Rebecca Russomano and Taylor Reed will provide exceptional speed and defense for the Lady Highlanders as well.

“I think eight out of the nine starters on the field play a lot of softball so I think it’s starting to show and catch up [with] all of their hard work in the offseason,” Salisbury said.

Verona will look to clean up their fundamentals as they will open the season at home on Saturday April 1 against Patterson Kennedy High School.