Softball preview: Younger players in key roles for Ridgefield

Between graduation losses and players deciding not to play this season, the Ridgefield High softball team would seem hard-pressed to match last year’s 14-9 record and appearances in the conference and state tournaments.

The Tigers have just two upperclassmen on the roster and will have new starters at several key positions, including pitcher.

According to head coach Lauren Greywacz, however, there are several reasons why the outlook might not be so bleak.

“We’re are very young, but we are also very versatile and talented,” said Greywacz. “A lot of FCIAC teams are also in the same boat as us; they lost experienced players and have younger players.”

Ridgefield’s captains are its two upperclassmen: Senior Mallory Shofi and junior Lauren Bayer. They will both start in the outfield, with Shofi in center field and Bayer in left field. Shofi was chosen to the All-FCIAC second team last season.

“We are going to need both Mallory and Lauren to be good leaders this year,” said Greywacz, whose team is scheduled to open the season Monday at home against Staples (4 p.m.). “They will have to be role models for the younger players.”

The other returning starter is sophomore Sabrina Grizzaffi, who played second base last season. Grizzaffi may return to that position or move over to shortstop this spring. She will likely be Ridgefield’s leadoff hitter for the second straight year.

Sophomore Claire Filaski takes over at catcher, and classmate Alex Kinkead will start at either shortstop or second base.

Three more sophomores — Makenna Skrobar, Chiara Signorelli and Julia Kocsis — are in contention for the corner infield spots at first and third base.

Another 10th grader, Ellie Brady, is among those vying to start in the outfield alongside Shofi and Bayer.

Ridgefield’s biggest challenge is replacing pitcher Kailey Westington, who made the All-FCIAC first team as a junior and was a second-team selection in 2017. Westington is now playing at Southern Connecticut State University.

Sophomore Mikayla Melahn, Westington’s back-up last season, is one of three Tigers looking to become the regular starting pitcher. Also in the mix are freshmen Skylar Arent and Alyssa DeStefano.

“All three of them are movement pitchers who bring something different to the table,” said Greywacz. “They don’t throw as fast as Kailey did, but they still have good speed for high school. I actually think our pitching is a strong point, which is exciting because they are all so young.”

Having lost the second, third, fourth and fifth hitters from its batting order last season, Ridgefield will rely mostly on small ball to produce runs.

“We are not a big team physically but we have some good athletes with speed who are fundamentally sound,” said Greywacz. “If we get people on base I think we can figure out ways to score them.”

Notes: Rounding out Ridgefield’s 13-player roster is sophomore Reagan Bonadies, who will be the backup catcher and may be also used as a designated hitter.

If they are not pitching, Arent and DeStefano could play in the outfield.

Ridgefield lost to eventual conference champion Darien, 4-1, in the FCIAC quarterfinals last season. The Blue Wave scored all four of their runs in the bottom of the sixth inning.

The Tigers blanked New Milford, 6-0, in the opening round of the Class LL state tournament before falling to second-seed Cheshire, 5-2, in the second round.