Hopedale High School Softball

Christopher Tremblay, Staff Sports Writer
Working Toward The State Tournament for the 3rd Year in a Row
Issue Date: 
April, 2019
Article Body: 

Last spring Hopedale advanced into the District 3 State Softball Tournament for the third time since 2015 and for the third time the Blue Raiders unfortunately had to go up against Turner Falls. The West Champion sent Hopedale packing all three times in the Semi-Finals; 3-1 in 2015, 2-1 in 2017 and 4-1 last year. Since 2014 Turner Falls has advanced to the State Championship game five straight years winning three titles along the way.
In order to meet up with Turner Falls for their latest Semi-Final clash Hopedale defeated Oxford 4-0; Millbury (the number one seed) 8-4, Assabet Valley (5 seed) 3-2 and Montachusett (3 seed) 11-5 to claim the Central Championship. Although they once again were able to get into the State Championship the Blue Raiders almost didn’t even get the chance to play in the District 3 Central Tournament bracket.
With only five games remaining on their regular season schedule Hopedale found themselves at a dismal 4-9 and had to win out if they had any intention of getting into the post-season. At one point the Blue Raiders were down to their final inning before they saw their season coming crashing to an end, but the girls reached deep, pulled out the victory and were able to finish the season at 10-9 and barely earned themselves a chance to continue their season.
“I guess you can say the girls peaked at the right time,” Hopedale Coach Shanna Lathrop said. “Here’s hoping that carries over into this season. I don’t want to find ourselves in that position again. I think being in that position lit a fire under the girls when they realized that their season could be over with one more loss.”
While it did take the Hopedale softball team a good portion of the season to realize what needed to be done to prolong their season Lathrop will be returning all but one of those girls back this spring when they retake the field. The Blue Raiders only said goodbye to their senior first baseman Liz Swanson.
“Thankfully we only lost one senior, which is better than losing six players,” the Coach said. “Although Liz will be missed there are a couple of players looking to battle for her position.”
Who gets to fill that vacancy will all depend on tryouts as will every other position on the team. According to the Blue Raider skipper, just because someone played a certain position the year before doesn’t necessarily mean that the position is theirs the following season. Every season all nine positions are up for grabs to the individuals who earn them – it’s an entirely open slate.
“We are not a team made up of a bunch of All Stars, we are a group of individuals working together for the best of one another,” Lathrop said.
Hopedale will have three captains on their roster this spring in centerfielder Kathleen Maloney, Taylor Goldstein and second baseman Lucia Rolo. While Rolo leads by example on the field, Maloney is a very vocal captain that inflicts her passion on the field and when she speaks to her teammates; she is the center of everything.
Being that n positions are set in stone, Goldstein is one that is defiantly in search of one. Last season the team’s catcher watched from the sidelines with and ACL injury and following her rehab was told that she play the position anymore, needless to say she’s looking for a new home on the field.
“It’ll be a big adjustment for her, as was it was last year being on the bench,” the Blue Raider Coach said. “She has a great work ethic and wants to play and will do whatever it takes to secure a position. Most likely she’ll play somewhere in the infield, she’s going to fight for that first base opening.”
When the season opens sophomore Bianca Fitch should find herself in the pitching circle for the Blue Raiders. Of Hopedale’s 157 innings last year, Fitch pitched in 146 of them striking out 179 batters and recording a 2.90 ERA. Despite her slow start, the freshman developed into an ace for Hopedale. She reduced her walks and transformed them into strikeouts while becoming a key player in Hopedale’s run to the playoffs.
“She’ll once again be our top pitcher coming into the season. She has spent the off-season pitching and now has a year of exposure to varsity games,” the coach said. “She needed those pressure contest to get her in gear. She was composed and poised despite being a freshman, it’ll be exciting to see what she does this year.”
With Goldstein not able to take to the field Lathrop was forced to find an alternative behind the plate. Luckily another freshman emerged and the elder catcher took her under her wing and taught her the nuances and fine points of being a varsity catcher. Carly Smith was not only a friend of Fitch’s but the two were friends that had grown up playing the sport together since an early age; it was the perfect storm for the Hopedale Coach.
“Having Carly behind the plate really kept Bianca poised,” said the coach. “On the other hand, Carly was aided by the fact that she had a personal catching coach by her side in Taylor.”
Smith looks to have proven herself during her first campaign with the tem and should be the battery mate of Fitch for years to come.
Although Hopedale prides themselves on being a team made up of many individuals who can step into a role at time, junior Lena Swift possessed the team’s highest batting average last year at .403, she also lead the team in stolen bases.
“This team is full of girls who are all hitting around the same average – take one out of the equation and we’re still going to be ok,” Lathrop said. “Everyone plays an intrical part for us. If one girl is having a tough night at the plate we still have seven others who will be there to pick her up.”
While she may have been the team’s top batter when the season eventually closed, Swift wasn’t even in the starting lineup when the season began. The now junior had to work her way into right field with her quickness and her power hitting from the right side of the plate.
When the season gets under way Hopedale will be looking to make its way back to the State Tournament for the third straight season, but Lathrop wants the team to get better progressively not just on the softball field but mentally as well. Their goal is to once again win the Dual Valley Conference, then the District 3 Central Championships and then hopefully get by Turner Falls and win a State Title. Turner Falls may have their number for now, but all good things come to an end and Hopedale is hoping that they are the ones to do so on their way to the top.