With the 2012 FCIAC softball season upon us, the question now is, was the 2011 campaign a statistical anomaly or a sign of things to come?
Last season Darien won its first FCIAC championship. New Canaan, which went 13-5 and finished fourth during the regular season, and playoff runner-up Fairfield Ludlowe, experienced the schools’ best seasons.
Meanwhile, Westhill, which was undefeated during the regular season and was gunning for its third league title in four seasons, was knocked out in the first round of the playoffs. Same thing happened to St. Joseph, another consistent title contender.
Trumbull? The team that won three championships since 2004 and appeared in six of the last seven FCIAC finals, missed the playoffs entirely. Trinity Catholic, which has been a consistent playoff qualifier, went 4-14.
Starting Wednesday we’ll find out if the 2011 season was indeed a simple abnormality or an omen that a changing of the guard is taking place. A poll of coaches seems to believe in the former as Westhill is the pick to win it all in 2012. But Darien received the second most votes.
Five teams to watch
Darien: With a strong pitcher, a solid group of returning hitters and plenty of experience, the Blue Wave are the favorite to repeat.
Westhill: With one of the top pitchers and a coach in Tom Pia, who always gets the most out of his players, the Vikings will contend for a title.
St. Joseph: The Cadets lost a lot but with two of the league’s top players, they figure to go deep into the postseason.
Fairfield Ludlowe: A surprise team that was the No. 8 seed last season, the Falcons won’t sneak up on anybody.
Fairfield Warde: The Mustangs were somewhat of a surprise entry in the playoffs last year. No surprise this season.
Five position players to watch
Katie Schmidt, Norwalk: Shortstop an outstanding hitter who can play anywhere and still probably be the best player on the field.
Krista Robustelli, Stamford: Shortstop was All-FCIAC and All-State as a sophomore, and under the tutelage of coach Tony Esposito, figures to only get better.
Olivia Gozdz, Darien: With her catching Jess DeMaio, the Blue Wave will have the best battery in the league.
Breana Shepard, St. Joseph: The Cadets will lean heavily on what figures to be one of their few top returning veterans.
Jenn Vazquez, St. Joseph: The Cadets lost several strong players but any lineup with Shepard and Vazquez still figures to be formidable.
Five pitchers to watch
Allison Macari, Westhill: Led the Vikings to the regular season title but needs to win the big one to compare to previous Westhill aces.
Jess DeMaio, Darien: Was the key to Blue Wave’s great postseason run to the FCIAC crown and the school’s best season.
Aliza Guerrero, Fairfield Ludlowe: Guerrero showed her stuff when leading the Falcons to the FCIAC final.
Heather Vanderheyden, Fairfield Warde: The Mustangs were not a high-scoring team last season, so another big year from her is imperative.
Cydney Ventura, New Canaan: The Rams had a productive offense, but the pitcher was the key to the school’s best season.
Five games to watch
Darien at Westhill, April 13: The present takes on the past as last year’s champ faces the team that won it all in 2008 and ’09, and lost in the final to Trumbull in 2010.
Darien at New Canaan, April 18: In just about every sport, it’s the equivalent of Yankees-Red Sox. Now, perhaps, it has reached that level in softball, especially after last season’s hotly contested FCIAC playoff game.
Westhill at Stamford, April 27: For most of the last 30 years, the best team in Stamford has gone on to compete for the league title. This one decides that.
St. Joseph at Westhill, May 7: These two teams went a combined 33-3 during the regular season last season. Don’t expect the records to change much in 2012.
Darien at Fairfield Ludlowe, May 17: A rematch of last year’s final, won by Darien 4-3. Last year it was a surprise matchup. It doesn’t figure to be this time.
Top players by team
Westhill: All-FCIAC pitcher Allison Macari, centerfielder Allie Souza, infielder Cassandra Kish, catcher Elizabeth Joseph.
Stamford: All-FCIAC and All-State shortstop Krista Robustelli, rightfielder Tori Hynd, second baseman Angela Altamura, first baseman Gretta Buckley, catcher Colleen Adams, pitcher Jordan Schepps, pitcher Courteney Kuczo, pitcher Christina Joannou.
Trinity Catholic: Caitlin Ornousky (.400); Krissy Schule, Kelly Sheridan, Kate Spielman, Megan Bates, Kellie Hurd, Amy Hurd.
Darien: All-FCIAC and All-State catcher Olivia Gozdz (.609), All-FCIAC and All-State pitcher Jessica DeMaio (15-2, 1.85 ERA, .348, 24 RBI), third baseman Courtney Bell (.419, 22 RBI), centerfielder Kelly Fahey (.404).
New Canaan: Jami Kuhn (.303), Jordan Ventura (.408, 19 RBI), pitcher Cydney Ventura (10-4, 2.58 ERA, .469, 21 RBI), Courtney Rogers (.405, 23 RBI), Marlee Ready (.393, 24 RBI), Brittney Overacker (.355).
Greenwich: All-FCIAC shortstop Erica Ambrogio, pitcher Alison Kach, first baseman Ebba Mark, centerfielder Lindsey Bemis, rightfielder Emily Raviele.
Norwalk: All-FCIAC shortstop Katie Schmidt, catcher Mary Sciglimpaglia, third baseman Eleni Petridis, pitcher Patti Sciglimpaglia.
McMahon: Shortstop Sam Bardos, first baseman Natalie Leslie, catcher Alex Schlater, infielder Alayne Martinez, outfielder Alli Ganim.
Staples: Charlotte Axhelm, Madison Kashetta, Heather Rosoff, Shelby Schulman, Nikki Bukovsky.
Fairfield Warde: Pitcher Heather Vanderheyden, leftfielder Kitty Caissy.
Fairfield Ludlowe: Second baseman Jen Hsieh, first baseman Meredith McGann, shortstop/centerfielder Emily Nelson, pitcher/outfielder Aliz Guerrero, third baseman/outfielder/pitcher Maggie Lapolla, third baseman/shortstop Brenna Martini.
Trumbull: First baseman/third baseman Erica Quinones, second baseman Veronica Alicea, pitcher Maddie Festa, outfielder Brianna Passero, outfielder Christie Costello.
St. Joseph: Centerfielder Breana Shepard, catcher Jenn Vazquez, third baseman Taryn Figmic, outfielder Mary Beth Meirer.
Ridgefield: Centerfielder Shannon Taddonio, catcher Amanda Scammon, shortstop Erin Bamback, pitcher Emily Spicci, first baseman Dana Cohen.
Danbury: Erica Carboni, Hannah Keiser, Mary Sigillo, Jessica Oliveira.
Central: Second baseman Lori Pham, catcher Molly Lahey, pitcher Kendall Washington.
Bassick: Shanik Arriaga, MonayaCabble, Alexandria Garcia, Jasmin Harrison.
Harding and Wilton: no information available.
Compiled by Emery Filmer