By Nick Mallard
TOWNSEND -- With a core centered around several four-year varsity players, the North Middlesex Regional softball team figures to be competitive when it takes the field this spring.
The big question on the minds of the Patriots and manager Becky Jackson is when that will finally happen.
"We're itching to get outside," Jackson said. "Our field usually takes some time to be ready, but we can't wait to get out there. I'm sure most teams are dealing with the same thing, but the girls are ready to get out there and so am I."
Part of the reason for the enthusiasm is the return of seniors Shannyn Muldoon and Julia Murray, team captains since their sophomore season.
Murray, the team's catcher, led the team with a .400 batting average last season and was a league all-star. Muldoon, a left-handed shortstop, batted .321 and is a solid defensive stalwart in the middle infield.
"Those are two really good players to build around," said Jackson, in her fourth season as the Patriots' coach. "They've both been here since they were freshmen and are outstanding players."
While the team has several spots to fill -- likely with a talented group of sophomores new to the program -- Jackson has several other returning players who are capable of competing in a tough Midland B league.
Second baseman Jackie Potvin is a defensive dynamo with speed on the basepaths and fellow senior Melissa Armichetti could see time both at first base or in the outfield. Junior Emily Rapoza will likely fill on of the team's outfield spots.
Junior Hannah Lawrence will be the team's top pitcher, having seen time in the circle last season. Senior Brittany Caswell will also pitch, while seeing time in the outfield as well. But even with a bit of experience, Jackson -- whose team is scheduled to open April 4 at Tyngsboro -- is well aware that the team's schedule doesn't do the Patriots many favors.
"We've dropped from 20 games to 18 games this year," she said. "We're ready to get out and start playing and improving."