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High School Softball: Immaculata gets stronger with time

Sophomore pitcher Molly Hennessy helps lead a young but more-experienced Immaculata team. (Photo courtesy of Ron Larson)
Immaculata may be young but don’t confuse that with inexperience.

Though there are only two seniors on a team that went through some rebuilding last season, the Bears’ small roster consists of seven returning players and another who’s back with the program after starting as a sophomore.

Those returning players help give Immaculata head coach Ray Hennessy some hope that his team can again be a Monsignor Martin finalist contender. The Bears, who finished 9-13 last season, made three straight appearances in the league championship (2008-11). The MMAA’s top teams won’t make it easy, though, as none have lost much from last season either.

“Certainly we’ll have more experience,” Hennessy said. “I think they’ve gotten a year older and more confident.”

Hennessy realizes how important pitching can be in softball and he feels like he’s got two solid young hurlers in his sophomore daughter, Molly Hennessy, and her classmate Courtney Carrocia.

Hennessy, a power pitcher, will see the majority of time on the mound, while Carrocia, who can change speeds effectively and throws a good breaking ball, will probably settle in to the starting shortstop spot but also see some innings pitching. Hennessy also led returning players hitting over .400 last year.

“The biggest thing is pitching and we’ve got two real shooters,” coach Hennessy said. “They’re young but they’ve both got some varsity experience and have gotten better. They’ll compliment each other nicely because they have two different styles.”

Joining Hennessy in the middle of the order will be returning junior starters Julia Lalka at first base and Sadie Chentfant at catcher. The three combined to hit 15 home runs last season. Carrocia and fellow sophomore Hannah Botlz should hit around the top of the order and try to get on base for the sluggers behind them.

The seniors on the team — Sarah Lipinski and Kathryn Halloran — will each play some at second base and in the outfield. Halloran, a starter as a sophomore who missed last year to be a thrower for the track and field team, will be quite busy this spring as she participates in both sports.

Junior Bridget Giles returns as a starter, coming in from the outfield to play third base. Classmate Amy Griffin will also play some outfield. Also among the sophomore class, Rhiannon Sager will be a newcomer to the Immaculata outfield.

Coach Hennessy will keep about 10 players at both the varsity and JV levels with a few going back and forth to provide each team needed depth. He will be without senior captain and infielder Karah Burlow, who tore her ACL. She was a First Team All-Catholic honoree last year after hitting .414.

Monsignor Martin teams will be shooting for Sacred Heart, which finished unbeaten in league play and went on to win the 2012 title to advance to the state tournament. The Sharks lost only a few key players, while second-place Nichols suffered very little loss of key players, as well.

“It looks like those teams will still be at the top of the heap,” coach Hennessy said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us.”

Along the way, Immaculata will play a unique schedule which features a variety of public and private school opponents, some during several tournaments the team will enter.

Besides hosting the Immaculata Tournament on the second weekend in May, which Hennessy has made into a private vs. public challenge, the Bears will also play in competitions this month at the Mudville Tournament, the inaugural Gerry Gentner Memorial at Williamsville South and the Depew Tournament.

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