by Tom Utescher

In the fifth inning of Friday’s non-league bout, Mount junior Rachel Dapper (right) got her foot on the bag just before the ball reached Archbishop Ryan’s first baseman. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

With graduation losses limited to a pair of outfielders, Mount St. Joseph Academy returns most of last year’s softball line-up for the 2012 season. Bill Thompson is back for his second year as MSJ skipper, and is sharing the head coaching duties this spring with a new arrival, Kat Longshore.

A Philadelphia native, Longshore attended Central High School and then played Division I softball at Lafayette College.

After a few weeks in training with the Magic, new coach noted “The girls seem determined to improve and they know that it’s going to be a team effort, because we don’t have any superstars. From hitting to them in practice, I think our defense is tight, and that should help to keep us in games.”

The Mount returns its 2011 starting battery of junior pitcher Kathryn Cnudde and senior Mary Riccezza. Cnudde will carry the load as much as possible, with back-up coming from players such as Morgan Tinneny, a junior who also serves as designated player for the Magic.

In addition to Riccezza, the senior starters are right fielder Bree Barton, third baseman Maeve Elliott, and first baseman Melissa Williams. Filling out the infield are junior shortstop Amanda Hawthorne and sophomore second baseman Sam Burns, while juniors Margo Buckley and Julia Mustin (a Norwood Fontbonne Academy graduate) play in left field and centerfield, respectively.

The Mounties’ bench strength will come from seniors Charlotte Banzhoff and Lauren McMenamin, juniors Rachel Dapper, Maddie Searle and Lauren Stabler (another Norwood product), and Bree Barton’s sophomore sister, Becca.

In an early outing that ended in a lopsided loss to Catholic League semifinalist Archbishop Ryan, the Magic’s chief defensive lapse occurred in the first inning.

“It was our first time out and we were shaky at the beginning,” Coach Longshore commented. “Once they calmed down, they sort of focused in and were making those routine plays – if we get those down then the rest will come.”

Turning to the offense, the new MSJ mentor said “Our hitting needs some work, mostly because we need to see some more of that fast pitching to get our timing down. I think the short game is going to be a strength for us because we’ve got good speed. What we need to do is identify who the hitters are, and then balance that with the small game.”

Between now and April 5 the Mounties will complete their first half-dozen league contests, then they’ll play the next six games during a spring break trip to Orlando, Fla.

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