Vets focused on team-wide improvement
It’s been far from perfect the last three years for the Warwick Vets softball team, but each season has brought the ’Canes a little bit closer to contention.
Win totals in league play have increased from one in 2011 to two in 2012 to three in 2013. Overall win totals have gone from one to three to five over the same span.
Those improvements might seem small, but they’re proof that Vets is getting better.
This season, they’re looking for even more proof.
The ’Canes return quite a few players from a team that was dominated by underclassmen, and they’ve also added a few freshmen to the mix who should vie for time.
With at least a year of high school experience under most of the players’ belts now, everything should be much smoother.
It’s been hard to gauge just how much the team has improved from last year, as the ’Canes have been relegated to practicing in the gym more often than not because of the weather, but head coach Paul Kennedy is expecting a leap when his team takes the field.
“The last three years have been tough,” Kennedy said. “But we’ve gone from one win to three to five. So we are improving, just not quickly enough. I’d like to see us continue to make strides.”
The ’Canes were the No. 15 seed in last year’s 16-team Division I playoffs, a position they’d like to improve upon this year.
It’s an attainable goal. Vets is already off to a decent start, as it played a non-league game on Thursday and defeated Division II Mt. Hope 3-2.
“I’m tired of just being happy making the playoffs,” Kennedy said. “I want to get back to when we were a legitimate threat every year and winning playoff games. I think we can. Are we there yet? I don’t know, but the goal is to go as deep into the playoffs as we can.”
Vets graduated four seniors from, with three-year third base starter Amanda Graves leaving the biggest void.
Everyone else, though, is back and ready to go.
In the circle will be a combination of junior Naomi Franzen, sophomore Kayla Bourbon and freshman Kayla Morin. Franzen and Bourbon split the duties last year, while Morin is the one who was credited with the win against Mt. Hope.
All three of them will see some time.
Behind the plate is sophomore Emily Walason, another player with experience. Sophomore Arietta Chevian and freshman Natasha Savage can also catch, giving the team solid depth.
At first base, sophomore Michelle Spremulli will do the job and she could also be one of the team’s leading hitters.
“I truly think that she has the makings to be an absolutely fantastic hitter,” Kennedy said. “She’s so strong, and she has such a nice swing.”
Another one of the team’s top players is junior shortstop Liz Iadevaia, who has started in that position since her freshman year.
“It’s nice to have that one sure thing,” Kennedy said. “She’s going to be at short without a doubt.”
Junior Gabby Korlacki, Chevian and Savage are all in the mix for the second and third base spots, as Kennedy will use different combinations of those three early in the season. Senior Maile Tortolanni will provide some depth.
In the outfield, senior Kelsey Houle is playing right and senior Chelsea Reid is in center. Other players, such as seniors Kiah Marcotte and Rachel Gousie, sophomore Marianna Brawn and Franzen will see time in the outfield too.
“I like what I see,” Kennedy said. “They’re working hard in the gym.”
Kennedy points to defense as a spot where his team needs to improve if it’s going to up its win total once again.
If it gets that shored up, the offense will likely be strong enough to hold up its end of the bargain.
“Our defense last year was not great, at all,” Kennedy said. “So we’re going to spend a lot of time on the defense, because it cost us an awful lot last year.”
Vets has no real time to get its footing, as it jumps right into a difficult D-I slate. Its first game is today when it hosts Cumberland at 3:45 p.m. It then has a non-league game against Pilgrim on Wednesday before taking on La Salle at home on Friday at 4 p.m. Cumberland went 11-5 last year, while La Salle went 10-6.
But last year is over with, especially in the eyes of the ’Canes. They’re ready to turn the corner.
“Goals for the season – we certainly should be in the playoffs,” Kennedy said. “I’d like to see us continue to make strides.”