WESTFIELD, NJ — After an 8-14 season last year, the Westfield High School varsity softball team will strive for more as the Blue Devils bring back 10 players with varsity experience. This gives the team plenty of depth despite the loss of last year’s two senior starters, Hailey Reilly and Elena Elliott.

“Our offensive lineup should be much stronger than it was last year,” head coach Caitlin MacDonald said. “Our returners have come back stronger and more disciplined at the plate. We also should have a strong pitching staff with Bridget Hyland, returning starter, and sophomore Lauren Sullivan, who have both looked strong in preseason.”

The team has many untested players, too. Sophomores Genevieve Howell, Rachel Rothenberg and Lauren Sullivan will look to work their way into the lineup as well as freshman Jess Schlewitt, who is competing for a varsity position, according to MacDonald.

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“One factor that may be viewed as a weakness in our team this season is the number of newcomers we are bringing in, but personally I see this as an advantage,” senior infielder and star player Danielle Rinaldi said. “With so many new players, we will be very versatile. Also, everyone must work hard to maintain their playing time, which will make us a much stronger team.”

According to Rinaldi, the team appears to be more hitting-oriented, as the lineup has consistently produced six or more runs per scrimmage. Rinaldi hopes the Lady Blue Devils can continue this trend.

“This season, we look to come out strong and stay strong, using our team mentality to our advantage,” Rinaldi said. “Last year, we had a number of promising scrimmages and fell flat, so our primary goal is to focus on the first game and take this season one game at a time. In our conference, no game is a guarantee, which means we will need to work hard to capitalize on every opportunity we're given.”

The team also looks to improve on more than just the mechanics.

“We need to build on last year by playing smart softball,” MacDonald said. “We are hoping that the team emerges as a confident one that builds each other up and holds each other accountable. We have a lot of potential and I'm really eager to see the team play to that potential.”

The team has done their best to prepare despite the snow that has only recently melted away.

“The snow has kept us inside for longer than we would've liked, but the bright side is that every team in the area has been dealing with the same issues,” Rinaldi said. “We are very lucky to have two indoor batting cages, and we have taken full advantage of our indoor practices to focus on hitting. Although it is far from ideal, we've made the best of our time inside and have worked very hard in our recent outdoor practices to squeeze in everything that we need to cover.”

Overall, Westfield hopes the mix of youth and experience will be a winning formula.

“Since last year, we have lost a few key players, but our returning players are coming back with a vengeance and a new mentality, along with a number of new additions,” Rinaldi said. “With this combination, we can truly be explosive and make a statement in the county tournament.”

Eric Storms is a student at Westfield High School participating in a journalism program with TAPinto Westfield.