Who can blame Mike Trapani for feeling a bit like an empty-nester these days?
The Marist softball coach will begin the season without Lori Spingola, one of the most prolific high school players ever in Georgia, and seven other seniors from last season’s Class AAAA state championship team.
Spingola, now on scholarship at the University of North Carolina, helped the War Eagles to a 30-3 record last season. Marist closed out its run with an 18-game winning streak and 13 straight shutouts. Spingola had 75 strikeouts in 35 innings in four state tournament games last season as the War Eagles won their second straight state championship.
Trapani will defend the title this season with only two seniors – pitcher Haley Adams and infielder Charlotte Kelly. Adams was Spingola’s backup last season and saw action in several postseason games as a junior. Catcher Ashlyn Johns, a junior, who may move to third base, is the only returning starter.
“We’ll be better at the end of the season than we will be at the beginning,” Trapani said. “We’re not young, we’re just a little inexperienced. It’s not like they haven’t played before. They’ve all played travel ball, they just haven’t played varsity at Marist.”
With Spingola on the mound last season, Trapani’s main concern was offense and manufacturing a run or two to win a game. Nothing will be taken for granted this season as the focus of practices will be equal parts hitting and fielding.
“We had a sound defense last season, but when you only have to make seven or eight plays a game obviously that helps,” Trapani said. “This year we’ll spend a lot of time on both sides of the ball. We’ll have longer practices and do what we have to do.”
A rugged early-season schedule helped prime Marist for its state playoff run last year, and Trapani said this year’s schedule will be challenging. The War Eagles beat Class AA state champion Buford and Class A state champ Eagle’s Landing Christian, as well as several good AAAAA teams in 2009.
“When you have the caliber of teams we had over the past four or five years, your phone rings off the hook with people wanting to play you,” Trapani said. “Our schedule is not as loaded as it was a year ago, but it’s a good schedule. We’re going to be challenged.”
In Class AAA, St. Pius will be attempting to reach the state playoffs for the fifth straight season. The Golden Lions were 17-9 last season and lost in the second round of state.
Elsewhere in the county, Dunwoody and Southwest DeKalb will be looking to return to the playoffs. Dunwoody qualified in AAA last season but moved up to AAAA and shares a region with Southwest and Marist.
Both Dunwoody and Southwest were eliminated in the first round of the state sectionals in 2009.
Southwest returns its top two hitters while Dunwoody’s top two pitchers are back from last season.
Southwest senior Imani Gayle led the Panthers with a .585 batting average and 17 RBIs, and junior Trenece Nash hit .559 with 16 RBIs. For Dunwoody, senior Amanda Madrid is back after posting a 9-3 record with a county public-school-best earned run average of 0.75. Madrid struck out 88 batters in 65 innings. Stacy Ward also returns after posting an 8-8 record with a 2.66 ERA. She had 88 strikeouts in 84 1/3 innings.
Marist begins the season Aug. 20 at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, while public school teams begin the season on Aug. 16.