GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

May 8, 2013

Rockport atop Cape Ann at softball midpoint

ON SOFTBALL
Conor Walsh

---- — With the midpoint of the local high school softball season having recently come and gone, it seems as good a time as any to take a step back and size up the three squads in the area.

There have been some bright spots on the diamond for these squads, to be sure. Taken as a whole, though, this is shaping up to be a softball season Cape Ann will look to forget.

The good news, though, is that the future appears bright for Rockport, Gloucester and Manchester Essex with a ton of young players gaining quality experience.

Just don’t expect that experience to pay dividends just yet.

ROCKPORT

After winning the Cape Ann League Small division and reaching the Division 3 North semifinals last season, the Vikings’ expectations were predictably high coming into this year’s campaign.

While the Vikings find themselves very much in the mix at the season’s midpoint, the first half was a bit of a disappointment. Rockport entered the season already having to fill holes left by graduation, and recent injuries to pitcher Jessica Collins (likely out for the year) and first baseman Kayla Parisi (should return this week) have only made things tougher.

The Vikings sit at 4-6 through 10 games, but still very much in position to make a return to the state tourney.

SEASON HIGHLIGHTS: It’s hard to overlook some of Rockport’s lopsided wins this season, as three of their wins — coming against East Boston twice and Manchester Essex — have been by a combined 66-0, but it was a tighter game last week that’s been Rockport’s highest point on the year.

In the Vikings’ second game since the injuries to Collins and Parisi, Rockport hosted Pentucket in a game the Vikings really needed a win out of.

They found a way. Despite notching just three base-hits, all infield singles, the Vikings were able to scrape out three runs and Hannah Lorden was excellent on the mound and held the Sachems to just two runs.

Not as dominant a win as the Vikings have had, but a gritty 3-2 win can often do more for a team than a blowout.

WHAT’S TO COME: Rockport’s still got some tough games on its schedule with tilts against CAL powers North Reading, Newburyport, Amesbury and Georgetown still to come. Don’t be surprised, though, to see this Vikings team get hot at the right time and find a way back to the tournament.

GLOUCESTER

After graduating a slew of contributors from a 2012 team that won just six games, the Fishermen entered this season in a clear rebuilding phase.

Coach John Nicastro has five freshmen seeing playing time for him this year, and while there have been some bright spots, the results have been what one would expect as the Fishermen sit at 2-10 — nearly a guarantee they won’t see the tournament.

SEASON HIGHLIGHTS: The Fishermen’s two wins have come in games that, well, they should have won. They’ve topped Lynn English and Saugus, the only two teams lower in the NEC standings than them.

There’s something to be said for that, though. The Fishermen can’t change what they are — a green group of youngsters that lack the experience most opponents sport.

With that considered, wins are still wins, and topping two teams that you should beat is nothing to scoff at.

WHAT’S TO COME: The Fishermen are pretty much done in terms of tournament contention. Like Manchester Essex, though, they’ve got the opportunity to build up some experience for next year and years beyond that. The good news is that they’ll see Saugus again next week in a game that could provide Gloucester with a confidence-boosting win.

MANCHESTER ESSEX

This season looked like it might be a struggle for a young Hornets’ squad.

After a season-opening win, though, it seemed Manchester Essex might surprise some people. Unfortunately for the Hornets, it was all downhill from there, as they’ve dropped eight-straight games since that win and enter today’s game with Pentucket with tournament hopes that are about as slim as they get.

SEASON HIGHLIGHTS: The aforementioned season-opening victory, coming over Ipswich on April 11, has been about the only bright spot for the Hornets. The bats came alive in a 7-3 win over the Tigers, who find themselves tied with the Hornets at the bottom of the CAL, and for a team that’s allowed more than 12 runs per game, holding Ipswich to just three was a big moment for the Hornets.

WHAT’S TO COME: A .500 season and a trip to the tournament is out of reach for the Hornets at this point. What they do have left on their schedule, though, are winnable games against Pentucket and Ipswich left, and, perhaps more importantly, a handful of games against top teams to give the team’s young roster invaluable experience to build on moving forward.