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04/17/2022 12:00 AM

Warriors Striving to Thrive Through Experience

Senior captain Vivian Paradis is one of the leaders on a Valley Regional softball team that’s looking to use its experience to succeed on the field during the 2022 season. File photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier

The Valley Regional softball team is poised to have a strong season with Head Coach Allyson Pitney this spring. The Warriors are returning eight of their nine starting players from last year and have already put two victories in the win column through the early goings of the 2022 campaign.

After losing its season opener, Valley earned its first win of the year with a 17-7 victory versus Morgan on April 4 and then took a 5-0 loss to Haddam-Killingworth. In last week’s action, the Warriors split a pair of games by taking a 10-1 defeat to Cromwell and then bouncing back with a 22-0 win against Westbrook-Portland, improving their record to 2-3 on the year.

“With eight out of nine starting players returning from last season, I’m expecting to be competitive with the other teams in our conference,” Coach Pitney said. “[Junior] Anna Benson on the mound often puts us in a position to win games. We can look to be competitive if we stay clean on defense and maximize our offense.”

Valley finished with a record of 7-12 last year, and Coach Pitney expects to see her team improve on that mark this season. Pitney will rely heavily on her big cast of seniors to lead the charge and guide the younger players toward success.

“I know it sounds vague, but I’m excited about our seniors playing together. Watching them develop into the experienced players they are now has been great as a coach,” said Pitney. “As the season progresses, we’re also looking to the future. We’ll start giving some of the new and less-experienced players time on the field to settle into their positions for next year.”

Valley began last week by playing a home game against Cromwell and lost to the Panthers by a 10-1 score on April 11. Senior Sammy Pierce had 2 hits for the Warriors, one of which was an RBI double that drove in the team’s only run of the game. Senior captain Cede Peno also had a double for Valley.

“It was a tough game against strong opponent, but I’m proud of the girls to keep grinding, avoiding the shutout with a run in the sixth inning,” Pitney said.

The Warriors’ second game of the week went much better as they claimed a 22-0 victory over the Westbrook-Portland co-op squad at Westbrook High School on April 13. Benson threw a complete game to pick up her second win of the year for Valley, allowing just 2 hits and striking out 9 batters in 6 innings pitched. She also went 3-for-4 with 3 runs scored and 2 RBI at the plate.

Sophomore Taylor Rae went 2-for-2 with an inside-the-park grand slam to pace the Warriors’ offense. Sophomore Riley Soares had 3 RBI, while senior Maddie Sheehan, senior Abby Amara, Pierce, and sophomore Katie Schafer all had 2 RBI to help Valley defeat the Knights.

“It was a great opportunity to get both the new players and also younger players some action in a varsity game,” said Coach Pitney. “It was awesome to see Taylor Rae come off the bench and deliver an inside-the-park grand slam for us. Even better, it was her birthday.”

Valley is being led by senior captains Vivian Paradis and Peno this season. Paradis is a shortstop for the Warriors, while Peno plays first base.

“We’re going to need sharp gloves from them as Paradis will share time with Abby Amara guiding the infield at shortstop and the outfield at center field, and Peno is an anchor over at first base,” Pitney said. “Both have shown flashes of offensive prowess in past seasons, so I’m hopeful that shines in their senior campaigns.”

In addition to the senior captains, Coach Pitney is eager to see how Benson will perform during her junior year in the circle following a breakout campaign as a sophomore. Benson earned All-Shoreline Conference Honorable Mention in her sophomore season.

“Anna is a junior and has a year of high school experience behind her now,” said Pitney. “She lost her freshman year to COVID. She was our starting pitcher last year and did great, but this year she’s looking more confident with that experience under her belt. She seems to be having a bit more fun out there and more comfortable with the teammates behind her.”

Coach Pitney is also expecting Valley to get big contributions from Amara, Pierce, and Soares this season. Pierce is the team’s starting catcher, and Soares plays third base. Amara, who made the All-Shoreline Conference Second Team last year, is a utility player who Coach Pitney can trust anywhere on the field. Pitney described Amara as one of the most coachable athletes she’s ever worked with.

“She’s got a great attitude on and off the field, and I feel comfortable putting her anywhere as she’s an incredibly versatile player. She’s been leading the outfielders in center and has been a steady glove at shortstop,” Pitney said of Amara. “When she’s up at bat, she’s going to do something positive, whether it’s getting something started or keeping a rally going. I know she’s adding to our team’s offense.”

Coach Pitney believes that Valley can have a successful season and wants to continue challenging herself as a coach. Pitney knows that her roster is deep with talent, so her goal is to try and get as many players into the lineup as possible on a daily basis.

“I’m hoping to try out some alternate lineups that I haven’t tried in the past. I’ve been hesitant to switch too much up at a time, but I want to get some additional players in off the bench,” said Pitney. “With the talent and game knowledge these girls show, I’m more comfortable with giving my bench more time at the varsity level.”

The Valley Regional softball team’s roster for the 2022 season includes senior captains Vivian Paradis and Cede Peno; seniors Abby Amara, Ryleigh Czenthe-Wickland, Kenzie Mulé, Samantha Pierce, Gabi Quinn, Maddie Sheehan, Stephanie Sheehan, Mia Stack, and Hannah Tejedor; juniors Anna Benson and Paige Lee; sophomores Kayla Carnelli, Mulanga Drysile, Taylor Rae, Katie Schaefer, Riley Soares, and Raegan Wyrebek-Brasky; and freshmen Emma Gibson, Angeleah Loftus, Nataly Pavon, Miley Prue, and Colbie Ryan.

Senior captain Cede Peno and the Valley softball squad notched their second win of the year with a 22-0 victory against the Westbrook-Portland co-op squad on April 13. File photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier
Junior Ana Benson tossed a complete game with 9 strikeouts when the Warriors shut out the Knights last week. File photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier