No introductions necessary.
As Oswego coach Amanda Stanton begins her second season in the softball dugout, it’s just one reason why the Panthers have their feet further settled on the ground.
Two pitchers and a catcher are both back as sophomores among six girls returning from a 10-18 team that advanced to a regional final.
The Panthers opened their season Wednesday against Sandwich. Results were not available by press time.
“The girls are much more confident and much more ready to work hard,” Stanton said. “There’s a lot of positivity.”
It starts with senior first baseman/outfielder Ashley McCance, committed to Minnesota State-Moorhead.
McCance hit .309 with a team-best 25 runs batted in, while fielding at a .978 percentage last year, and brings a powerful bat at the plate and good range and a strong arm to the field.
“She’s the perfect example of what a senior leader should be,” Stanton said. “She’s always working hard, she always has a smile on her face.”
Natalie Etheridge, an outfielder who will play collegiately at Rock Valley College, is another leader. The speedy senior could hit ninth or leadoff, play center or right field.
Sophomore Annie Scaramuzzi packs power at the plate (.387 on-base percentage, 16 RBIs) at the plate and on the mound, where she’ll split pitching duties with fellow sophomore Jenna Veber. Veber went 5-6 with a 2.66 earned run average as a freshman.
“They complement each other really well,” Stanton said. “Annie is a lefty, Jenna pitches right-handed. Annie pitches with more speed, Jenna has great movement on her pitches inside and outside. And they are each other’s biggest fans.”
They’ll both be throwing to a third sophomore who started as a freshman. Becky Pieroni hit .343 with five doubles and 12 RBIs.
“She has grown so much after just one year,” Stanton said.
Junior lefty slapper Kayla Moky, who will play shortstop, hit .376 with a 929 fielding percentage and brings speed and swagger to Oswego’s team. Sophomore third baseman Raelyn Reichert and junior second baseman/outfielder are two newcomers who could contribute.
Stanton thinks Oswego’s hitting, up-and-down a year ago, could be much-improved this spring.
“Some of the girls’ swings look completely different. Whatever they did, it does look a lot better,” Stanton said. “We’ll see what happens when we face live pitching. We are trying to focus on consistency. We don’t have to hit home runs, but we do want to make contact.”
The biggest focus for a program that’s had little stability in the dugout is building a positive culture. Oswego hasn’t had a winning season since 1994, but Stanton sees no reason that the Panthers can’t do just that.
“We are very excited to get our program moving in the right direction,” Stanton said. “The girls are meshing well.”