By Jeff Lander
The high school softball season has reached it's midpoint on Cape Ann and the first half of the year has not been short on excitement. Here's a look at how the teams have stacked up in the first half of the season and
The Good: Reigning 2011 Cape Ann League Division 3 Coach of the Year Dianne Parisi has her team back and better than ever in their 2012 campaign. The Vikings are off to the best start in school history with a 9-1 record. Through their first ten games, they are averaging an astonishing 13 runs scored per game and have outscored their opponents by a 134-28 margin. The trio of Gabby Muniz, Mollie Watson and Kristin Turner are leading the charge again in 2012. All three were CAL all-stars last year and they haven't lost a beat.
Muniz, the reigning CAL Division 3 Player of the Year as a freshman, is far from suffering a sophomore slump. The shortstop is leading the team in almost every statistical category, with eye-popping numbers in average (.553), hits (21), RBI (22), on-base percentage (.614) and slugging percentage (1.158). Watson's numbers aren't far behind, posting a .375 batting average and .514 on-base percentage, while also adding 14 RBI's and 25 runs scored. Not to go unnoticed, the hard-throwing Turner has been dominant, posing a sub-2 earned run average.
The Bad: It is tough to knock a school when they are off to their best start in program history and spotting a 9-1 record. The only knock on Rockport is their weak non-league schedule in the first-half, however, they disposed of it with ease. The 7-6 loss to Masco is the only blemish on their record, but considering Masco holds a 9-1 record, the loss isn't considered bad by any means.
2nd-Half Outlook: The Vikings face a much tougher road in the second-half. They square off against the class of the CAL, taking on Amesbury (10-1), Lynnfield (7-3) and North Reading (8-2). To make matters more difficult, Rockport is on the road in two of those three contests. While Lynnfield is only 7-3, they handed Masco their only loss of the season, which is the only team to beat Rockport thus far. Rockport is a lock for the tournament, however, anything less than a deep tournament run would be disappointing for this talented squad.
The Good: The Fishermen have already made large strides in John Nicastro's first year as head coach. The three wins in the first-half of the season already surpassed their win total of last-year (2-18). Despite the 3-7 record, Gloucester has showed the NEC that they aren't a pushover.
Gloucester displayed its ability in a 6-5 walk-off victory over Swampscott, a team that is widely considered one of the Northeastern Conference's best. Clare Pleuler, heading to Boston University to play soccer next year, has been a huge impact for the Fishermen after deciding to play the sport for the first time since Little League baseball. Keri Brewer and Katie Munroe have been swinging a consistent bat while Emily Caisse has played excellent defense at second. Freshman Tess Benson is also getting some valuable experience as a starting catcher and is definitely a player to watch in the future.
The Bad: Inconsistency has been the story for the Gloucester in the first-half. Realistically, Gloucester could be at or above the .500 mark. They lost 5-3 to Revere in a game that they let slip out of their hands. They also held an 8-1 advantage over Peabody late in the game, however, the Tanners orchestrated an improbable comeback to take the 9-8 victory. The offense has been feast or famine, as the Fishermen either put up numbers in bunches or struggle to string runs across like they did in losses to Winthrop and Danvers.
2nd-Half Outlook: The schedule doesn't let-up for Gloucester in the second-half. They have to face tough NEC opponents in Danvers, Swampscott and Winthrop again. Swampscott will be looking to avenge the loss from their first meeting. The Fishermen will also have their hands full with Winthrop pitcher Alex Ferri. Withrop's offense is nothing to write home about, however, but Ferri struck-out 15 Fishermen in their previous meeting. Gloucester needs to play more consistent in the second-half to make the post-season, but they have shown that they have the ability to play with anybody when they put it all together.
The Good: The Hornets are a young squad that has taken big strides offensively from last-year. The first three hitters in their lineup are a potent combination that rivals anyone's in the CAL. Sophomore left-fielder Alex Stasiak bats lead-off and is the team's catalyst with her .500 average. Junior Nicole Bradley hits second and is batting at a .464 clip, leading the team with four steals while adding two triples and five RBI's. Both Stasiak and Bradley set the table for the slugging senior Kelly Dodge. Dodge leads the team in almost every statistical category, batting an astonishing .571 with 10 RBI's and five doubles.
The Bad: After starting 3-2, the team has faltered a bit dropping four straight to fall to 3-6. A 5-2 loss to Ipswich may turn out to be a crushing blow when it comes to the Hornets tournament hopes. Earlier in the year Manchester Essex defeated the Tigers 14-10 in non-league action, but dropped the crucial contest the second time around. During the four consecutive losses, the offensive production dropped off. After averaging 11 runs per game during their first five games, the team has only averaged 4.5 runs per game in their past four. The team also needs to tidy up the defensive aspect, as inconsistent play in the field has been a problem for Manchester Essex.
2nd-Half Outlook: The Hornets have some tough games against Masco (9-1), Lynnfield (7-3) and Rockport remaining. They have some winnable games down the stretch, squaring off against Pentucket (3-8), Georgetown (2-7) and Triton (3-6) who all have below .500 records. To get in the tourney, they are going to need to get hot while pulling-off a couple of upsets in the meantime. To have a chance, the offense needs to pick up again and perform like it did in the first five games. Even if they don't make the tourney, the Hornets have taken some positive strides in 2012 and have continued to make progress over the duration of the season.