GROTON -- For Groton-Dunstable softball coach Derek Asadoorian, the 2012 season was about coming close, as a 9-11 record left his squad on the outside of District play looking in. In 2013, Asadoorian and the Lady Crusaders have a talented and deep roster that will look to do last year's team one better and punch a ticket into the postseason.
"Last year, we were competitive, but we came up a win shy of the goal of making it into the playoffs," said Asadoorian. "I feel that this year, we will be extremely competitive once again. We are a young team with only two seniors, but have a lot of talent up and down the roster. Making the Districts is on the list of goals, but what I want is for the girls to reach their max potential. I feel if we do that we will have accomplished what we want."
In the outfield, senior Jen Johnson will get the nod in centerfield while being flanked by juniors Erin Olson and Maddy Bugbee in right and left field, respectively. "Last season, Jen served mainly as a runner, but she put a lot of work into her game, both offensively and defensively, in the off-season," said Asadoorian. "She has great speed and range in center and will bat in the two-hole for us. She is a natural left-handed hitter who is a contact hitter who will also slap for us. Jen is a consistent player whose maturity makes her a good leader.
"Erin was an all-star last year who has a strong bat and is penciled into the third spot in the order. She has good pop, finds the gaps consistently and is a run-producer. Erin is a good athlete with above average speed who is a solid defender. Maddy is a contact hitter who can hit to all fields. She is improving defensively and is a hard worker. Maddy also can pitch is called upon which gives us additional options."
Three-fourths of the infield is set in stone, as freshmen Laura Bieren (first base) and Rose O'Malley (shortstop) will join sophomore Lindsey Werner (second base) around the diamond. "I expect Laura to step right in and play and is going to hit in the sixth spot in the lineup," said Asadoorian. "She has great athleticism, good size and a strong knowledge of the game. Laura has a strong bat, but can also drop down a bunt and also has pitching experience.
"Rose moved from Illinois and is having a great preseason. She will bat fifth for us and has a strong swing. Rose has a good arm, high softball IQ and fits in nicely at shortstop. Lindsey is making the move from shortstop to second this year and is a strong athlete who has a very good glove. She brings energy to the team and is never afraid to get dirty. Lindsey will be in the eighth or ninth spot right now, but is improving daily at the plate."
At third base, senior Olivia Lexo and junior Ariana Cho are battling for the starting spot. "Olivia is a hard worker with a strong arm that is fearless defensively. Offensively, she is working on her hitting, but is a strong base runner. Ariana played third last year and could also see time behind the plate this season. She is a smart player who is selective at the plate and is a hustler who is strong on the bases."
Making up the battery for Groton-Dunstable this season is juniors Celina Antonellis behind the plate and Alyssa Ash on the hill. "Celina played second and centerfield last year and is making the move behind the plate this year, which shows how versatile she is for us," said Asadoorian. "She is a great leader, excellent athlete and is a returning all-star. Celina is a catalyst for us on offense with her energy and skillset. She is very fast, is a great slap hitter and will bat leadoff. With her communication skills and hard-nosed play, she is a great leader for this team.
"Alyssa has good speed on the mound and is developing more movement on her pitches. She is always working on her control, but has looked very good in the early going. Alyssa will bat cleanup for us and has a powerful bat. Her strength is line-drives to the gaps and she uses all fields."
In the mix for playing time in the outfield are junior Annika Liljegren and freshman Emily Figueroa, while sophomore Lindsay Maloomian will see time in the infield. "Annika is improved at the plate, has good speed and is smart on the bases," said Asadoorian. "She is gaining confidence both offensively and defensively, has good range and a strong arm and could also see time at designated hitter.
"Emily also could see time at DH due to a solid, compact swing. She has a solid arm and also could pitch if needed. I have been very impressed by her skill set so far. Lindsay is a contact hitter who is one of our best bunters and uses her speed to her advantage. Right now, she is improving on defense and has worked hard in the early going."
Rounding out the roster are a quartet of freshman who represent the future of the program while also fighting for time this year. Lizzie Frazier (third/pitcher), Katie Ferro (outfielder), Olivia Shea (catcher) and Caroline Thompson (first) will all gain valuable varsity experience this year. "I like the group of freshman we have and they have all shown good skill sets in the early going," said Asadoorian. "They are all going to contribute to this program greatly over the next four years."
With a deep and versatile roster, Asadoorian likes what he has seen in the early going.
"We have the ability to move some kids around and mix and match lineups, which is a nice luxury to have as a coach," said Asadoorian. "This season, we have a difficult schedule, but I know we will be ready to play every day. This is a great group of girls who are all very coachable and have really come together in the early going. I think we have a chance not only to be competitive but to surprise some people this season."