LYNNFIELD — The Lynnfield softball team is hoping to turn things around from last year when the team had its first losing season in the last six years after qualifying for the Division 3 North state tournament for five consecutive years.
Last year the Pioneers had a dismal turnout at tryouts, but got off to a decent start with wins in their first two games. But after that, it was all downhill, as the Pioneers lost six of their next seven games and never really got back on track. Lynnfield finished the season 7-11.
The numbers were so low that Lynnfield, at times, didn’t have enough players to field a varsity and junior varsity team on the same day.
Fast forward to this year and early indicators are that the Pioneers may be facing the same challenges this year as they did last season.
The Pioneers lost just two seniors to graduation, but four other varsity players, including two seniors with starting experience, decided to call it a day and hung up their spikes this season.
The good news is the Pioneers won an appeal over the winter to remain in Division 3 for the next four years after the MIAA had slated them to move up to Division 2. Softball was the fifth Lynnfield team slated by the MIAA to move up in their respective divisions along with football, boys soccer, girls volleyball and wrestling. While those other four sports failed in their appeals, softball was the only one to find success.
Leading the way for the Pioneers this season is 2-year captain and pitcher Hayley O’Brien, who’s committed to play college ball at Fitchburg State. O’Brien, a 4-year varsity veteran and 3-year starter in the circle who received CAL First Team honors last season, is the only senior returning this year.
“Hayley has worked so hard to improve on a daily basis,” said Pioneers coach Peter Marinelli. “She is no doubt the most dedicated player on the team in terms of her commitment and work ethic. My only regret with Hayley is that she never has had the kind of support behind her that would have allowed her to be a more dominant pitcher. Fitchburg is lucky to have her and I am sure she will contribute to any team she is on.”
Junior Taylor Tringali, who started at second base last year, and Allie Wing, who started at catcher, are back for their third varsity campaigns.
“Taylor and Allie have the potential to put it all together this year, both offensively and defensively, but they and frankly everyone on this team needs to be more consistent,” said Marinelli. “Allie is probably our best bunter and we need her to be solid behind the plate, and I think she has the potential to do just that.”
The Pioneers feature a talented sophomore group, many of whom stepped into starting roles last season as freshmen out of necessity.
Samantha Lebruska and Breanna Serabian worked their way into starting roles in the outfield, while Jenna Freni, Gabrielle Langone, Talia Bridgham and Mia Daly also saw varsity action last season.
Marinelli said that Freni is a solid hitter and can hit for power, while Lebruska may also see action at first base. He expects Langone, Bridgham and Daly, who were swing players last season, are also in the mix for varsity innings, as are freshmen Jillian Babine and Chloe Shapleigh, who received 8th grade waivers last year.
As far as the competition goes, Marinelli said it’s more of the same.
“Amesbury (defending Baker Division champion), North Reading (defending Kinney Division champion) and Pentucket are always tough, and with the way the schedule is set up this year, our lack of experience in the early part of the season might keep us from competing,” Marinelli said. “All we can hope is that we get better as the year goes on. We have many players who are capable of competing, but we need all of them to be more consistent and also need others to come along and continue to improve.”
Lynnfield opens the season next Wednesday, April 4 with a non-league game at East Boston.