|BRAKETTES LAUNCH SEASON SATURDAY AGAINST LYONS SPIRIT
June 1 - The Stratford Brakettes open their 70th season of women's fast pitch softball 7 p.m. Saturday, June 4th at Frank DeLuca Hall of Fame Field with a doubleheader against the Lyons, PA, Spirit. The teams will play another twin-bill Sunday at 11 a.m. Gates to DeLuca Field will open at 6 p.m. Saturday and season passes will be on sale throughout the weekend.
Manager John Stratton's Brakettes come off a 44-6 campaign, which was capped with their sixth straight Women's Major Softball National Championship. The Brakettes have won 34 national titles in their illustrious history, 28 ASA titles and six WMS crowns. Five of last year's defeats came at the hands of the Canadian Olympic Team, that beat Team USA in two international events in 2015.
Pitching has always been a trademark of Brakettes teams and this year's club figures to follow in that mode, led by 10th-year standout Brandice Balschmiter (18-2, 0.32 ERA). She is sixth on the all-time list with a 153-11 record, trailing only National ASA Hall of Famers Barbara Reinalda, Joan Joyce, Kathy Arendsen, the late Bertha Tickey, and Donna Lopiano.
Joining Balschmiter in the circle will be Tatum Buckley, who was 6-0 at Florida Atlantic this spring. Buckley is 9-0 in her two years in limited mound action with the Brakettes. She will see more action early in the year as Stratton has to wait for his two prized recruits, Megan Good (32-3) of James Madison and Sydney Smith (13-3) of LSU complete their collegiate obligations. Smith, a freshman, is the No. 2 pitcher for LSU which is playing in the College World Series this week. Good had three home runs last week in the Super Regionals and she finished with a .300 average, playing first base when not on the mound.
The other new member of the staff is Patti Sciglimpaglia of Norwalk. Her twin sister Mary hit .356 with 12 RBI while splitting the catching chores. Central Connecticut catcher Hannah Cooper is the final newcomer this year.
Veteran shortstop Mandie Fishback will be back on a part-time basis this summer, while FAU sophomore standout Emily Lochten returns for her second season. Lochten hit .354 with 39 RBI and seven home runs. Buckley, veteran player/coach Amber Radomski, and Jordan Whitley (.329) of Rutgers complete the infielders.
The outfield is led by all-time home run queen Denise Denis (.376, 58 RBI), 2015 batting champion Val Suto (.465, 72 hits) of Seton Hall, Shelton's Brittany Lampert (.413), ex-Foran standout Danni Kemp of Stony Brook, and FAU's Sarah Bencivenga (.392, 38 RBI).
Stratton has a new right-hand person in ex-Brakette outfielder Kristine Botto Drust, who is also the head coach of Cheshire High School's 23-0 softball team. Botto Drust was a member of the 2004 National Champion Brakettes.