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Versatility, depth have Concord softball optimistic

With just two starters having graduated last spring, it’d be easy to assume that this year’s Concord High softball team will look much like last year’s edition.

To assume would be wrong.

The Tide enters this spring with a versatile and deep squad, one that could change its look or its style of play depending on its opponent.

“The lineup could change game to game,” Coach Duke Sawyer said.

Concord’s corner infield will change with the rotation in the circle. And with the talent the Tide brought up from the JV team, Concord could go with a speed-oriented offense or a more traditional, power and average offense.

“It’s one of the best benches we’ve had in a few years,” Sawyer said. “With the depth we have, I really like this bench.”

That depth won’t be relegated just to the bench, either. This group will be pushing each other and the starters for playing time.

“On this team, everybody is naturally competitive,” senior co-captain Amy Morin said. “Knowing that someone can take your spot pushes you to work harder. We all work well together anyway … so being versatile is the best way for us to do well.”

The starting lineup on opening day (Wednesday at Manchester Central) will look much like last year’s playoff lineup, but don’t expect the same lineup two games in a row.

Four-year starter Katie Kennard will likely get the nod in the circle, where she’s compiled a 22-10 record with a 2.24 ERA over three seasons. A career .400 hitter, Kennard has led the team in most offensive categories the last two years and will move over to first or serve as the designated player when not pitching. She’ll be throwing to the team’s other four-year starter, Jasmine Morin, behind the plate.

Morin will be catching for a rotation of three pitchers who all bring something different, from velocity to accuracy to crafty movement.

“We can switch it up a lot,” Morin, a co-captain along with her sister, said of the Tide’s look in the circle. “Each one has a strength that can help us throughout the game, so depending on the team we’re playing, we can throw the pitcher who has the strength we need. We can confuse (teams) and switch it up.”

Junior Dani Morrill, who hit .294 in her first year on varsity and will often man the hot corner when not pitching, and senior Kaitlyn Kelleher, who may also play some first, round out the rotation.

Having three pitchers “is fantastic, it changes the complexion of what we can do,” Sawyer said. “I see games where all three of them could pitch.”

Senior Jess Carroll, who can provide some pop at the plate, is a three-year starter at first and will likely see time in the outfield when Kennard isn’t pitching.

Amy Morin, a three-year starter, returns at shortstop and in the middle of the order, where she hit .281 last year and tied Kennard for the team lead in doubles and triples. Junior Rachel Stevenson, the quickest player on the team, takes over at second base after playing both infield and outfield last year.

Sophomore Cassidy Emerson, who led the team with a .405 average as a freshman, returns in center field with junior Annie Mullen, who led the team in stolen bases, back in right. Left field is up for grabs between senior Kelsey Bisson, sophomore Molly Emerson and junior Meaghan Littlejohns.

But, again, those spots aren’t set in stone. Littlejohns is also in the mix at third base, along with sophomore Delanie Pickering, who will also see time behind the plate. Mullen could move in to second base, Stevenson can also play shortstop, and sophomores Deb Morrill and Katherine Muzzey bring a speed dynamic to the offense and will both see time in the outfield and middle infield.

Such depth and versatility have the Tide thinking about returning to the final four – where it resided for seven straight years until falling in the quarterfinals last year to eventual champion Alvirne – and hopefully beyond.

“Division I is more wide open than it’s been for eight or 10 years, and we’re right in the mix,” Sawyer said. “… We’ll have to be very good at every aspect of the game. Right now we’ve got good pitching, good fielding, good hitting. We’ll have to get a couple of ‘verys’ in there, and we will get better.”

“That’s my main goal, to get back to the championship and regain that top spot,” said Amy Morin, one of six players who were on the Tide’s runner-up team in 2011. “Everyone has the same goal in mind … to work our way up and become that No. 1 team.”

(Sandy Smith can be reached at 369-3339 or ssmith@cmonitor.com.)

It's no secret the author of this article coaches on this team and keeps the score book and stats as well. The numbers given are completely inflated and do not reflect the actual performances that were viewed and scored by local college scouts. Accurate reporting from unbiased sources should be the standard in journalism, and opinions saved for the editorial page. Using this forum to artificially glorify the achievements of kids is just one more example of that "everyone gets a trophy" mentality that taints competitive athletics.

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