Alyssa Mabardy would be the first person to show excitement and emotion if Natick High’s softball team qualifies for the playoffs later this spring. The Redhawks’ new coach, however, has one specific goal and it’s as basic as can be — improve on a daily basis.
“What’s important is that our players focus on improving each day in practice and in games,’’ said Mabardy, who previously coach Natick’s jayvees and served as the varsity’s interim coach in 2016. “Daily improvement will lead to a tourney berth. Qualifying is possible this year and it’s in our sights. We know the opportunity is there.’’
Hired last September, the 29-year-old Mabardy has a squad that’s strong in a variety of areas. It’s a team that’s solid on offense, capable on defense and promising in the pitching department.
“Our strengths include a high softball IQ, athleticism, some power, speed on the bases, and fast hands in the batter’s box,’’ Mabardy said. “We’ve got a group of girls who play multiple positions and we’ve got solid pitching prospects. The kids are coachable, they’re eager to compete and they love the game.’’
Natick’s trio of senior captains — outfielders Julia Adelmann and Nicole Segale and first baseman Carly Erickson — not only are quality leaders, but they’re also very supportive and interested in making the Redhawks’ team chemistry mesh.
“Julia has great technique, a high softball IQ and speed on the bases,’’ Mabardy said. “She’s a two-year captain and a hustle-type player who’ll mostly play centerfield. Nicole is coachable, makes good decisions, is consistent and hits for power. She’ll be in left field. Carly has quick hands and is a terrific fielder. She’s also consistent as a power hitter.’’
Two seniors Mabardy will be relying on are Jordan Grignaffini and Hannah Katzman. Grignaffini can play first base or the outfield and Katzman is a right-handed pitcher.
“Jordan knows the game, has an awesome softball IQ and can knock in runs,’’ Mabardy noted. “A power hitter, she’ll be in the middle of the batting order. Hannah has decent speed, good control and an assortment that includes a fastball, curve, change-up and a drop. She’s very composed on the mound.’’
Seniors Bridget Stevens and Sophie Verna are utility players who could see action at third base or in the outfield. “Bridget likes the small-ball approach,’’ Mabardy said. “She bunts well and knows how to slap hit. Sophie also does well in a small-ball situation. She hustles and is very coachable.’’
Three juniors will be in starting roles — right-handed pitcher Marie Canty, middle-infielder Katie Drurey and middle-infielder/outfielder Isabelle Poulack. “Marie has a strong drop and change-up and a capable fastball,’’ Mabardy said. “Her control is good, too. Katie can play shortstop or third. A fine fielder, she challenges the ball and she can hit for power. Isabelle plays year-round. She’s got speed and tremendous knowledge of the game.’’
Katherine Cormier and Calla Murphy are juniors who’ll contribute. Cormier plays the outfield and can catch and Murphy will play centerfield. “Katherine knows the game and plays year-round,’’ Mabardy noted. “And, Calla is a capable hitter and fielder who adapts well to a small-ball style.’’
Mabardy has ticketed a sophomore — Lilly Fangel — to be her starting catcher. “Lilly has a solid arm and she communicates well with her pitchers,’’ Mabardy said. “She can hit, she blocks the plate well and she knows how to frame the strike zone.’’
Marina Lyons and Hannah Goldman are talented and versatile sophomores. Lyons is a middle infielder and Goldman can play third base, the outfield and catch. “Marina is an all-around player who throws and hits effectively,’’ Mabardy said. “She’s also fast on the bases. Hannah knows the game, throws well and hits for power.’’
Mabardy knows how challenging a Bay State Conference schedule can be. And, she’s acutely aware that a variety of teams are usually in the mix to lead the standings. “Walpole, Milton, Framingham and Newton North are competitive and strong,’’ she said. “Framingham is always a tough matchup because they’re our top rival.’’
At Local Town Pages deadline, the Redhawks were 1-1, beating Milton and losing to Newton North.
Intent on seeing the entire softball program flourish, Mabardy has a quality group of assistants at all three levels. Jess Wright is the freshman coach, Diane Whittaker is the jayvee coach, Lexi Harvey is a varsity assistant and former Natick football coach and athletic director Tom Lamb is serving as a volunteer coach.
“I want all levels of our program to progress and excel,’’ Mabardy said. “The long-range goals are to build a strong softball tradition and to turn out players who have confidence in their ability.’’