Softball preview: Ridgefield opens at Disney World

With 10 players returning, it’s no wonder that Ridgefield High head coach Lauren Greywacz and her players are ready to get started this season.

“We’re pretty psyched,” said Greywacz. “We have a lot of talent on the team.”

The Tigers went 12-9 in 2016, losing to Newington in the first round of the Class LL state tournament. Ridgefield was unable to qualify for the eight-team conference playoffs, finishing one game behind three other teams.

“It was a good season for us, but we want to be better this year,” said Greywacz. “We want to make FCIACs as well as states and be right there with the top teams.”

Following several rain postponements this week, Ridgefield will play its season opener on Sunday against Whitney Young Magnet School (Chicago, Ill.) at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

“The captains approached me last July about going to Orlando for the spring training program they have there,” said Greywacz. “They raised enough money to cover the costs, and then we added a regular-season game as part of the trip.”

In senior Kailey Westington, the Tigers have one of the conference’s premier pitchers. Westington went 11-8 with a 1.95 ERA in regular-season games last spring, earning All-FCIAC first team honors. The righthander allowed 104 hits over 129 innings, walking 36 batters and striking out 133.

“She has the greatest attitude; nothing bothers her out there,” said Greywacz about Westington. “We’ve been working with her on painting corners and hitting spots with her pitches. If she can do those things consistently she’s going to be even better this season.”

Framing pitches for Westington this season is senior Kendall Rogoff, a four-year varsity player who switches from third base to catcher. Rogoff has a strong arm and a lethal bat: She hit .406 last year with two home runs and 18 RBIs, landing a spot on the All-FCIAC second team.

“Kendall is the heart and soul of the team,” said Greywacz. “She can hit for average and power — she’s going to bat third in the order — and she is a wall behind the plate and has a strong arm.”

More power will come from junior first baseman Amanda Kelly, Ridgefield’s clean-up hitter. Kelly batted .367 last spring with 12 extra-base hits (nine doubles) and a team-high 19 RBIs. “Amanda can really crush the ball,” said Greywacz.

“She’s a big bat in the middle of the lineup and can drive in runs.”

The Tigers are all set at shortstop with senior Sydnie DeMarco, a four-year starter who hit .339 with 13 RBIs in 2016. “Her range at shortstop is fantastic; she never gives up on a ball,” said Greywacz. “She also fills the five spot in the batting order and is a great contact hitter.”

Another senior entering her fourth year as a starter is centerfielder Ryen Fujitani. She batted .293 last spring and was second on the team in runs scored with 15. “Ryen has the speed to cover a lot of ground in center field,” said Greywacz. “She will also contribute at the plate and on the bases.”

Westington also will be a key component of Ridgefield’s offense. She hit .362 with 13 RBIs last season.

Junior Mallory Shofi (.245, nine RBIs) is back in left field — “she has incredible range,” said Greywacz — with classmates Jackie Nadel, Brandy Mauro and Julia McSpedon and sophomore Lauren Bayer vying to start in right field.

Between the graduation of second baseman Meghan Hyatt (.358, 19 runs scored) and the move of Rogoff from third base to behind the plate, the Tigers have two infield openings. They will be filled by two freshmen, Sabrina Grizzaffi and Chiara Signorelli, although Greywacz wasn’t sure which player would play where.

“They are both very skilled,” said Greywacz about Grizzaffi and Signorelli. “I have a lot of confidence in both of them, even though they are freshmen.”

Notes: Ridgefield will play its first in-state (and FCIAC) game next Wednesday at Stamford. The Tigers’ home opener is scheduled for Saturday, April 15, against Trumbull at 11 a.m.