It may be the start of a new season, but there will be many familiar faces on the Abington Heights and Lackawanna Trail softball teams when Lackawanna League play begins next month.
With several of its core players returning, the Abington Heights softball team has its sights set on a Lackawanna League Division 1 title and district playoff success.
The Lady Comets return six starters from last year’s team that finished with a 13-6 record and was defeated by Pittston Area in the first round of the District 2 Class 3A playoffs.
Senior Dominique Emmett returns at catcher, senior Paige Harris is back as the starting pitcher, senior Marissa Lewis returns at first base, senior Cassie Toth is back at second base, sophomore Cassidy Bartkowski returns at shortstop and junior Alison Kane is back in center field.
The team has to replace third baseman Alex Gockley and right fielder Rachel Gilmore in the starting lineup after both graduated.
Junior Kaylee DeMatteo will likely play third base. Senior Emily Scarfo, junior Courtney Wrobel, sophomores Maddie Brown, Sam Petty, Meghan McGinley and freshman Alison Fiorillo are in competition for the starting spot in right field.
“We’re strong up the middle and that’s a good start,” Abington Heights head coach John Kelly said. “I hope we will be battling for a league championship. We have all the key players back. If we hit the ball, we’re going to be tough to beat.”
Kelly expects Scranton, Valley View and West Scranton to be among the other top contenders for the league title.
Abington Heights has not advanced past the quarterfinals of the District 2 playoffs since 2011 and last won a district title in 2007.
The Lady Comets will open league play at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 12 at Scranton Prep.
Lackawanna Trail also brings a veteran team into in 2016 season with hopes of claiming the District 2 Class A championship after losing in the title game two of the last three years.
“If we’re not right there competing for a district title, I won’t think the team reached it’s potential,” Lackawanna Trail head coach John Brander said. “I think the girls know what it will take to get there and I think we’ll be competitive in league play.”
Sophomore pitcher Allison Decker, senior catcher Mackenzie Duffy, junior shortstop Madison Lee, sophomore outfielder Karlee Cresswell and junior outfielder Allison Strauch return from last year’s team that finished with a 12-6 record.
The Lady Lions must replace first baseman Kasey Buck, third baseman Kerrigan Buck and outfielder Taryn Matti, who all graduated.
Freshman Sam Baltrusaitis will likely start in the outfield. Juniors Madisyn Peoples and Emily Van Fleet are working at third base. Juniors Rachel Rosengrant and Izzy Lechinsgki are competing at second base. Senior Breanna Halter and junior Sarah Weisenfluh are in the mix at first base.
Brander believes the pitching and catching combination of Decker and Duffy will be the team’s biggest strength.
“Allison had a great freshman year and is looking to improve,” he said. “Duffy is a three-year starter, and I think as a senior, she will be a great leader and a spark for the team.”
Brander expects Elk Lake to provide the toughest competition in Lackawanna League Division 4 play.
The Lady Lions will open league play at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, April 4 at Elk Lake.
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.