Abington Heights and Lackawanna Trail each will be replacing about half the lineup and moving players into new positions at key spots as they try to remain among the top teams in their respective Lackawanna League softball divisions.
The Lady Comets were second in Division 1 behind unbeaten state Class AAA champion Valley View. The Lions finished second in both Division 4 of the league and the District 2 Class A tournament.
A closer look at their upcoming seasons:
Paige Harris is back at pitcher and fellow sophomore Dominique Emmett, the top returning hitter, moves from third base to catcher.
The Lady Comets will need to rebuild much of their offense.
“We’re going to be young,” coach John Kelly said. “We’re replacing five starters from last year and four of our top batting averages and top players in RBIs.”
Kelly said the team remains talented, but youth and inexperience could be issues in a season where weather will have an impact.
“We could go through some growing pains our first few games, especially this year when we’re not going to get many, if any scrimmages, with this weather,” he said. “This is a year when we could have really used some scrimmages and exhibition games. We could have really used to work out the kinks.”
Emmett’s move is one of two changes among returning starters. Junior Alex Glockley goes from second to third base.
Seniors Alivia Plevyak and Casey Wrobel are back in left and center fields.
Sophomore Cassie Toth, who gained some experience last season, takes over at shortstop.
The remaining positions are up for grabs. Freshman Kaylee DeMatteo and sophomore Marissa Lewis are candidates at first base, freshman Allison Kane and junior Rachel Gilmore are at second base and juniors Jessa Sablan and Alexa Doggett are the right fielders.
Valley View needs to replace its pitcher and catcher but has most of its lineup back from the state championship squad. Kelly expects North Pocono, which ended the Abington Heights season in the District 2 Class AAA tournament, and Scranton to also be contenders.
Junior left fielder Gaby Truesdale, the team’s top returning hitter, is back for her third season in left field.
Sophomore Mackenzie Duffy moves from shortstop to catcher, while Emma Vasky takes over at pitcher to try to compensate for two major graduation losses – catcher Courtney Ditchey and pitcher Brianna Smarkusky.
Coach John Brander thinks both players are ready .
“Mackenzie grew up playing catcher in travel ball,” Brander said. “Last year, we were in need of a shortstop and she filled in great.”
Vasky won in her only start as a pitcher and filled in elsewhere.
“She does a real good job keeping the ball around the plate,” Brander said. “She has good control and she has a number of pitches she can use.”
Senior Shannon Jones, who started in the outfield prior to suffering a broken finger, is working at both second base and shortstop.
Junior Daria Lewandowski, at second base, and freshman Madison Lee, at shortstop, are the other two possibilities at the middle infield positions.
Seniors Nicole Rosa, at third base, and Shelby Croasdale, in center field, return to the starting lineup.
Junior Kerrigan Buck returns at first base where her twin sister, Kasey, could also see playing time.
Meghan Healey, a senior, transferred from Tunkhannock where she started in right field.
The Lady Lions may be able to fit in one of the extra middle infielders or first basemen as a designated hitter.
Lackawanna Trail and Mountain View are the only teams in the division that do not return a starting pitcher. Brander expects defending champion Montrose and Elk Lake to be among the top contenders.