Warriors Happy to be Back in the Swing
Junior pitcher Kenzie Mulé and the Valley Regional softball squad took a lopsided road defeat against North Branford on April 10, but are still excited to see the spring season underway. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Junior Abby Amara brings a versatile glove to the Warriors with the ability to play multiple positions on the field. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Junior Cede Peno possesses some pop in her bat and can play the corner infield positions for Valley. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior Lexi Ross has an aggressive approach at the plate and looks to attack the strike zone every time she steps into the batter’s box. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/ The Courier )
The Valley Regional softball squad opened up the 2021 season this past week. This marked the first time the Warriors were able to step on the diamond since 2019, and the team looks much different. Head Coach Allyson Pitney and her team are happy for the chance to compete this spring.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no high school sports were played in the state of Connecticut in 2020. The Warriors feel that just playing a softball game is a tremendous blessing. Coach Pitney and her players also know that their ability to continue playing for the long haul may be out of their hands given the ever-changing landscape involved in playing during a pandemic.
“I think the coaches and players alike are just so excited to be out there. We’re just grateful to have a season no matter what it looks like,” Pitney said. “We have the green light now, and we’re taking it day by day. Already, we’ve had a couple of players quarantined. We know the season is fluid, and we’ll have to change and adapt as the season progresses.”
The Warriors first game of the year came on April 10, when they headed to North Branford to take on the Thunderbirds. Unfortunately, Valley took a lopsided 17-1 defeat, but Coach Pitney knows that an opening day loss will not make or break a season, no matter what the score. Valley has a large slate of games with plenty of opportunities to make up for the defeat.
“Now that the first game jitters are out of our system, I think we’ll have a lot of competitive games,” Pitney said. “We’ll be able to focus more on our game and our strengths moving forward.”
To that end, the Warriors have been doing their best to stay sharp and improve through offseason work.
“I think our goal for this year is focusing on playing well and getting better every day. Thankfully, we have a great group of players who have put in the work in the offseason,” Pitney said. “So, technically, our team hasn’t played together in two years, but our players have been playing together with travel teams in the offseason. They are making progress with their skill sets and with softball IQ in general.”
Even though there are some holdovers from the 2019 squad, there are also plenty of new faces for Coach Pitney and Assistant Coach Adam Traxler to integrate.
“We have new personnel on the team compared to two years ago. We basically graduated two years worth of seniors, but we also brought in two years worth of new players,” said Coach Pitney. “I’m excited to see the junior class in action. They are a very versatile group. I know they are ready to step in and play where needed on any given day.”
That junior class consists of some of the Warriors’ top talent this season. Players like Abby Amara, Vivian Paradis, Cede Peno, and Sammy Pierce provide depth in multiple defensive positions for Valley. That versatility is big boon when constructing lineups, as well as late game situations when a pinch hitter necessitates some shuffling in the field.
“Sammy is typically our catcher. Cede is primarily our first baseman, but I can use her anywhere in the infield,” Pitney said. “Abby and Vivian have experience in the infield and in the outfield and are strong defenders wherever I put them.”
The Warriors will also be looking to junior Kenzie Mulé to be part of a pitching tandem this season along with freshman Anna Benson. Coach Pitney hopes to keep teams on their toes with a two-headed monster on the mound.
“Something else we’re looking forward to is two new pitchers to the team. One is Anna Benson, a sophomore, and the other is Kenzie Mulé, a junior,” said Pitney. “This is both of their first year’s on our roster. We’re happy to have two pitchers to use this season. I’m really planning to use them interchangeably and give teams different looks throughout the game.”
In terms of seniors, one major contributor for the Warriors is Lexi Ross, who is the type of hitter who goes to the plate hunting for strikes to drive. Coach Pitney enjoys watching Ross at the dish, as she attacks what opposing pitchers give her.
“We’re happy to have Lexi back. We’re lucky that we get another year with her,” said Pitney. “She’s fierce up at bat. This year, she’s playing center field for us, which is her preferred position. We had her at third base previously. I’m excited to see what she can do this season.”
As for other returning seniors, Valley has Hannah Jenkins, Olivia Porcaro, and Sierra Innamorato.
A new face that Coach Pitney believes will be an impact player for the Warriors is freshman Riley Soares. Coach Pitney likes a defensively sound squad, and Soares brings plenty of defensive prowess.
“Riley Soares is new to the team, but I’m excited about seeing her glove skills. She’ll be a great asset on the infield,” Pitney said. “She’s also a very aggressive offensive player in the batter’s box.”
Given all the challenges that he team will face this season, Coach Pitney wants to emphasize mental toughness for the Warriors. There’s a lot happening that is outside of her squad’s control, and Coach Pitney wants the Warriors to stay focused on what they can do to improve and win the games in front of them.
“I think for our team the point of emphasis will be the mental strength and stamina. Physical mistakes are going to happen. You’ll miss a ball, you’ll strike out, you’ll drop a pop fly, but what you have to do is move on,” Pitney said. “The main priority is to know what you are going to do with the ball and know where the play is going to be when you make the clean play.”
Coach Pitney hopes that Coach Traxler’s presence motivates the Warriors. Pitney appreciates the boundless energy that Coach Traxler brings.
“We have a new assistant coach this year and that’s Coach Adam Traxler,” Pitney said. “He is the physical education teacher at Deep River Elementary, where I teach. He is bringing endless amounts of energy and positivity to our team.”
Regardless of the outcome of the games, Coach Pitney and the Warriors are glad to be spending time together again.
“I think it’s really important to have the gratitude to be outside and be part of the team again. These kids were home for a year straight. It’s good to be out there working toward a common goal and being active,” said Pitney. “The girls are excited to be there and take advantage of every opportunity to play the game that they love as many days that they can this season. The season could end at any time, so make every day, practice, and game count.”