East Greenwich is the defending Division II softball champions after defeating West Warwick in the finals last season.
Pilgrim eliminated Exeter-West Greenwich from the second round of the consolation bracket before falling to the Wizards in the next round.
This is what the South Kingstown and Prout softball teams will be dealing with this season in the absolutely brutal Division II-South.
Both teams had solid seasons last year – with SK losing in the opening round of the playoffs and Prout eventually falling one game short of the finals – and each should be competitive again this season.
The Crusaders have gotten off to a tough start to the season with losses to East Greenwich (6-4) and Pilgrim (13-3) to start the season.
Prout coach Mark Paliotti knew the start to the season was going to be rough though, as his team looks to replace five starters from a season ago.
“I graduated five seniors last year and five seniors who played. “[We have] 62 hits to make up for the kids who we lost.
“Everybody we lost was batting over .400, they played every inning and we’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”
As far as players the team has on this seasons roster it starts with a core group of returners that includes pitcher Cheri Ueno.
Catching Ueno this season will be a combination of Nicole Corneau and Nicole McGovern but according to Paliotti McGovern, ‘can play anywhere,’ and he will utilize her talents as short.
Sophomore centerfielder Andrea Gosper and junior shortstop Victoria Matrullo will be asked to command the outfield and infield, respectively, while few players in D-II hit the ball as well as first baseman Riley Martin.
After that it’s pretty much open season to fill the vacancies left by the departing five seniors.
As for the Rebels their lineup is a little more set and it starts with senior captains Ava DeMarco and Anne McLoughlin.
“I think Annie’s as good as there is in the state [at catcher],” SK coach Joel Tuoni says. “The fact that we play in Division II will hinder her for recognition but her ability is as good as you’ll see from anybody get behind the plate this season.
“Ava in center has been a four year start, leadoff batter and she hits the ball well. She knows what needs to be done.”
In the circle will be a combination of senior Taylor Gordon and sophomore Jill Hathaway and each have a significant amount of experience pitching.
The big move for the Rebels this season comes at shortstop as sophomore Taylor Lynch moves over from third to short.
Lynch – whose older brother T.J. was a star at SK and is a freshman on the URI baseball team – has all the tools to be a tremendous asset for the Rebels.
Junior Christina Yonkoske will take over for Lynch at third, while junior Ella DeMarco and senior Hannah Buell will round out the infield at second and first, respectively.
Leftfielder Maggie Buell will once again join DeMarco in the outfield, while in right freshman Nicole Gennari has had the inside track to the starting position.
Freshmen Tava DeQuattro, Mackenzie LeBoeuf and Rachel Curran are also expected to be contributors for the Rebels this season.
“We just need to get better every day and our focus needs to be high,” Tuoni says. “If we concentrate and we’re focused then we’ll be competitive but we don’t have a lot of room for error.”
Unfortunately for the Rebels one player they were counting on having – senior captain Abby Sweet – will not get the chance to play this season.
“We’re bumming that three year starter Abby Sweet needs back surgery so she’s not going to be able to play,” Tuoni says. “That hurts, she was probably going to man first base but we have to deal with who’s here.”
The Rebels began the season with an 8-2 loss at home to EWG and were back in action Thursday at West Warwick (results unavailable at press time).
The next league game for both SK and Prout – who plays LaSalle Saturday at 11 a.m. – will be when the two teams face off against each other Tuesday at 4 p.m.