|2009 Brakettes have all the ingredients for an outstanding year
While the 2009 Stratford Brakettes lost many key players from last year's 59-2 squad, all the ingredients are present for another championship season. Once again Manager John Stratton and Coach Rich Roessner did a remarkable off-season job trying to rebuild the ballclub following the departure of pitchers Brandice Balschmiter (NPF Chicago Bandits) and Leslie Malerich (Italian National Team) and top hitters Whitney Mollica and Kaitlin Cochran (NPF Akron Racers). Balschmiter and Malerich (17-0) combined for 35 wins, while Mollica won the batting title with a .470 average, nine home runs, and 43 RBI. Cochran, in half a season, batted .556 with 17 extra base hits and 18 RBI.
"It's getting more and more difficult every year," said Stratton, now in his 32nd year with the Brakettes and 15th as manager. "We lose players to the pro league every year and some of the top Division I kids are too burned out after playing most of the year. We experienced some disappointment along the way, but we are pleased about the kids we do have. It should be a good season."
Always renowned for their pitching, the Brakettes have assembled another solid staff, led by second-year pitcher Bailey Sanders (13-0, 0.64) of UMass. "Bailey has a world of talent and she will be the workhorse this year," said Stratton. Bailey was injured early in the college season and saw limited action late in the year, but Stratton is confident she will regain her form and lead the Brakettes staff. "She may be a bit rusty to start, but she will get the job done"
Three-time Connecticut Gatorade Player of the Year Rachele Fico of Masuk High in Monroe brings some pretty impressive credentials to the Brakettes. Bound for LSU in the fall, Fico's numbers are amazing. She compiled an ERA of 0.07 and allowed just 21 hits and seven walks in 195 innings while she struck out 486. Of her 27 wins, 24 were shutouts and 12 were no-hitters, including seven perfect games. In May, she tied a national record with five consecutive perfect games.
Jen Russell of Seymour, CT, makes her debut with the Brakettes after pitching Sacred Heart University to its first NCAA appearance. Russell compiled a 19-16 record at SHU and she led them to the first NEC title in school history. She finished with a 1.84 ERA and struck out 179 batters in 228 innings. The other members of the staff are Kasey Barrett of Florida International University, who went 18-13 this spring, and veteran Danielle Henderson (8-0, 0.68 ERA in 2008), who has a career mark of 102-10 in six years.
One of the key ingredients on this year's club is speed, something the Brakettes haven't possessed in abundance in past seasons. The newest weapon is left-handed hitting center fielder Carly Normandin, an All-America performer at UMass. She hit .403 and drove in 37 runs while stealing 21 bases. Carly also had 32 extra base hits, including 10 home runs. Normandin, left fielder Jenna Lopez (.376) of Florida Atlantic and right fielder Denise Denis (.445, seven home runs, 45 RBI) gives the team its fastest outfield ever. Add to the mix newcomers Lindsey Kay Bright of Fordham, via Federal Way, WA, and UMass-Lowell graduate Stacey Lajoie of Gardner, MA, and you can picture Roessner waving runners around third base all season.
The catching position is well stocked with Jess Serio (.351, 29 RBI) of UMass back along with Jessica Mouse (.279, 35 RBI), who will also play third base when not behind the plate. Joining them will be Norwalk's Jill Cimminello (.328) and Killian Roessner, who played sparingly last year. Roesnner was a Division I All-America in 2007 at LSU. Roessner will also see considerable action at first base, as will Sanders. The middle infield will be handled by third-year starter Mandie Fishback (.356, 41 RBI) at shortstop and second-year player Ashley Waters (.375, 40 RBI) of Maine at second base. Waters is another speedster.
UConn shortstop Jessica Arremony of Griswold, a first-year player, will see time at both shortstop and third base, while former Brakettes bat girl Amber Radomski (.293, 24 RBI) returns for her fourth year. Radomski is the most versatile player on the team, having played every position except pitcher in her tenure. The team will be bolstered by the late-season arrival of Kentucky All-America Molly Johnson of Tucson, AZ, who was selected to play for Team USA in the Japan Cup. Johnson, a junior, is already ranked in the Top Ten in every offensive category for Kentucky, which earned its first NCAA berth this season.