Alvirne and Portsmouth seek to defend softball crowns
By ROGER BROWN New Hampshire Union Leader
What happens when the top softball team in the state loses its best player? Alvirne coach Sarah Brisk is about to find out.
Alvirne has won the last two Division I titles, but will be without pitcher/first baseman Taylor Carbone this spring. Carbone, last year's Union Leader Player of the Year, was a four-year pitcher/first baseman for the Broncos, but is now playing for the University of Massachusetts.
Carbone had a 15-2 record and a .571 batting average last season.
"Taylor was an outstanding player, but she would tell you that it takes a team to win a championship," Brisk said. "She had a strong supporting cast."
The Broncos still have four players who played on both championship teams. That group includes senior first baseman/third baseman Chelsey Drew and senior center fielder Mikayla Powlowsky, both of whom will play Division I softball at Siena College next season.
Brisk, a former Alvirne player who is in her second season as the program's head coach, said Timberlane of Plaistow, Merrimack, Salem and Manchester Central will be among the contenders this season.
"We just need to continue playing strong defense and get some timely hitting," Brisk said.
Like Brisk, Portsmouth coach Kim Grenon guided her team to a state championship in her first season as a head coach. Portsmouth defeated Kennett in the Division II championship game.
The Clippers will also have to replace their No. 1 pitcher, as Mariah Crisp is now playing at Keene State College. Crisp tossed eight shutouts and two no-hitters in 20 games in the circle last season.
The Clippers return five starters from last year's team, and picked up a transfer from Epping, Michelle Razak, who is expected to be one of the team's top pitchers.
"The biggest shoes to fill are Mariah's, but everything else looks good," Grenon said. "Everyone is talking about us having a rebuilding year, but I'm not sure that's going to happen."
White Mountains of Whitefield looks like a solid choice to repeat as the Division III champion. The Spartans return eight starters from the team that beat Stevens of Claremont in last year's Division III title game. The returnees include sophomore Rebecca Hicks (coach's daughter), who collected four hits, four RBIs and scored twice in victory over Stevens.
"If we stay healthy we should be pretty tough," White Mountains coach Forrest Hicks said. "They're a very committed group."
Wilton-Lyndeborough coach Denny Claire has guided his teams to six championships in his 26 years as the program's head coach. The most recent title came last spring, when the Warriors beat Profile of Bethlehem in the Division IV championship game.
Wilton-Lyndeborough returns seven starters from that team, but pitcher Samantha Broderick is not one of them. Broderick, last year's Division IV Player of the Year, pitched the Warriors into the championship game in three of the last four years.