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Sports

Softball: Annie Scaramuzzi, Oswego play this spring with memories of Amanda Stanton in mind

Oswego pitcher Annie Scaramuzzi is one of nine Panthers' seniors, four of them who have been on varsity since their freshman year.
Oswego pitcher Annie Scaramuzzi is one of nine Panthers' seniors, four of them who have been on varsity since their freshman year.

Annie Scaramuzzi can still picture Amanda Stanton looking out of the dugout at her, and smiling.

The memories will surely flow this spring.

Scaramuzzi, an Oswego senior, will miss slapping Stanton's hand, rounding third. She'll think about her yelling support from the dugout.

"She would always yell, 'Let's go big kid,'" Scaramuzzi said. "I think about it a lot. It makes me sad, but it makes me happy."

Scaramuzzi and her Oswego teammates have showed remarkable strength in loss. She's one of nine seniors – four of them promoted to varsity as freshmen – that Stanton took under her wing and showed the ropes.

Stanton, 26, was tragically killed last summer, the victim of a hit-and-run accident. Sara Polensky, who stepped in as head coach, is touched by how the Oswego community has rallied around the girls, and their strength.

"It's an amazing senior class, not just talent-wise but all around people," said Polensky, previously the JV coach. "They work hard together, they celebrate successes, they're there for each other when they fail. They're such a strong group. I'm honored to coach them."

Polensky and Oswego assistants Lindsay Hejtmanek and Kayleigh Bertram teamed up to design a logo for the season, with angel wings on the side and Stanton's signature, from her last letter to Hejtmanek, across the letter O in the middle.

It's on T-shirts, some 900 Oswego has sold. An Oswego metals class designed a plaque for the dugout to honor Stanton, and coins for the girls to keep on their bags.

A private memorial is planned for April 7 at the varsity field, where Stanton's No. 14 jersey will be retired.

"It is really cool to see how much an influence Amanda had not just on Oswego, but the softball community as a whole," Polensky said.

Stanton told the seniors as freshmen that they would be the ones to turn around Oswego softball, and they did.

As sophomores, Stanton's second year, Scaramuzzi and classmates Jenna Veber, Becky Pieroni and Hailey Morland helped Oswego to a 20-10 record, the program's first winning season since 1994.

Scaramuzzi, a Missouri St. Louis recruit, looks forward to the spring ahead, after a difficult year on many levels.

She battled elbow pain on and off since sophomore year, originally diagnosed as chronic tendinitis. Veber, a Murray State commit, broke a bone in her hand. Neither pitched in the playoffs.

Scaramuzzi went through therapy, but by the end of the summer had lost all feeling in her hand. A ligament tear in her elbow was eventually diagnosed. She had Tommy John surgery in November, but this week she's back throwing all her pitches. She's cleared to hit, and hopes to be ready to pitch by mid-April.

"I was super bummed at first, but definitely excited on the come up," Scaramuzzi said.

Oswego has plenty reason to be excited.

With Veber, who posted a 0.875 ERA last spring, ready to go, Scaramuzzi, who had 95 strikeouts, soon joining her, and Dubuque commit Nicolette Evans, who had 68 strikeouts last spring, the Panthers' pitching should be strong.

Concordia commit Pieroni, who hit .330 as a junior, is the captain and Oswego's leader, a true catcher on and off the field.

Wisconsin Eau-Claire commit Megan Maruna, who hit .385 as a junior, senior Calvin commit Jenna Johnson, and seniors Morland Raelyn Reichert and Laurie Avila, and junior Mikela Jagoda all return.

Polensky sees their job, the legacy of the program to keep on what Stanton was building.

The seniors' freshman and sophomore years, they made the regional final. Last year, they lost in 14 innings in regionals.

"We've talked the last three years about how bad we want that regional title, that is something we have wanted for so long," Scaramuzzi said. "We know how bad [Stanton] wanted it as well. We've talked a lot, actually, of playing for coach Stanton. It's a motivator."

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