Players to watch
Tori Constantin , King Philip Regional: The slick-fielding senior second baseman headed to Central Connecticut State proved she was one of the best hitters in Division 1 last year, finishing with four home runs, 23 RBI and a .630 batting average.
Heather Gates , Brimmer and May School: The senior first baseman earned last season’s Independent Girls Conference MVP honor after dominating opposing pitching to the tune of a .772 batting average.
Lauren Keast , Holliston: The senior captain will move from second base to shortstop this season while returning to her cleanup spot. She hit .507 last year, and is headed to Bryant University in the fall.
Shannon Smith , Milford: The senior pitcher earned the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year honor for the second time in her career last season after posting a record of 19-0 with a 0.11 ERA and 286 strikeouts in 130 innings en route to the Division 1 state title. She is heading to the University of Kentucky in the fall.
Jurnee Ware , Hudson: The lefty four-year starter finished last season 13-2 with a 1.22 ERA, and will look for a strong finish to her high school career before going off to Assumption College.
Perry’s Top 10 Softball teams
(With 2012 records)
1. Milford (24-0): Not only is Smith back as the Hawks look to repeat, they also have senior centerfielder Rachel Levine (committed to Boston University) and third baseman Caroline Fairbanks (Wheaton College) as well as sophomore catcher Taylor LeBrun returning to provide run support. Simply put: They’re loaded.
2. King Philip (21-3): The Warriors have a new-look battery this season, but senior righthanded fireballer Anna O’Neill and junior catcher Jordan Schaffer have enough talent to keep King Philip among the state’s elite for another season.
3. Concord-Carlisle (15-7): With eight starters returning and Wheaton-bound senior pitcher Galen Kerr looking strong after resting an elbow injury that bothered her last season, coach Lisa McGloin’s Patriots are after their ninth straight Dual County League title.
4. Acton-Boxborough Regional (17-7): After steering the Colonials to the Division 1 North final last season, coach Mary Matthews returns a strong senior class that includes four cocaptains — shortstop Hannah Graney, first baseman Michelle Surdan, centerfielder Kirsten Pfister, and pitcher Kara O’Riley — who have played significant roles since their sophomore year.
5. Newton North (19-4): The future is bright for the Tigers’ young roster, but so is the present. Talented sophomore Liv Sloane and freshman standout Gabby Vachon will share pitching duties, while freshman Rachel Hamilton will patrol the middle infield from her position at shortstop.
6. Bellingham (20-3): The Blackhawks return a whopping four Tri-Valley League All-Stars from last year’s team; senior shortstop Nicole Reed, senior outfielder G.G. Ricciardi, junior catcher Rachel Kuhlman, and junior pitcher Megan Cook will help make Dennis Baker’s squad a force in Division 2 once again.
7. Hopkinton (19-4): When sophomore ace Alissa Karjel takes the rubber, the reigning Tri-Valley League champs know they can compete with anyone. She finished last season 7-0 with a 0.82 ERA.
8. Hudson (18-5): Three freshmen — third baseman Steph Hamilton, shortstop Kieleey Zompetti, and first baseman Haley Gaffney — dot the infield for the Hawks, but senior leadership from second baseman Kara Knights and pitcher Jurnee Ware will help ease the team’s defensive growing pains.
9. Natick (14-7): The Red Hawks lineup will pack a punch in the Bay State Conference, led by junior sluggers Lexi Harvey ( who hit .556 last year) and Melissa Kostin (.460).
10. Franklin (10-11): The Panthers will have to cope without junior pitcher Elizabeth Criscione for two weeks because of a shoulder injury, but sophomore Sabrina LoMonaco will fill in ably while senior cocaptain RaeAnn MacLellan-Hurd leads a balanced lineup.
Phil PerryPhil Perry can be reached at email@example.com.