This year’s Madison High girls’ softball team will have a much different personnel look than the Warhawks’ squad of a year ago which captured both the Liberty District and Northern Region titles. But opposing teams would be advised not to overlook this year’s younger, less experienced Madison team, which has a roster made up of a few savvy, proven veteran players along with a number of enthusiastic, talented team members.
Over recent scrimmages versus such top-notch teams as Robinson and Westfield High Schools, as well as private school perennial power Bishop O’Connell, Madison played some decent ball considering that the squad, with just two returning seniors – pitcher Sam Brady and catcher EmJ Fogel - and five freshmen, was playing together for the first time.
“We showed some signs that we are capable of playing well,” said Madison head coach John Schneeberger, whose team benefitted greatly last year from seven, strong contributing seniors. “With a lot of new faces, we still have a long way to go. The team is very young.”
The Warhawks will have perhaps the best pitcher-catcher battery around in Brady and Fogel, who were both instrumental players in Madison’s outstanding 2010 season in which the Warhawks went 26-3 overall, captured their first region crown since 2005, and went as far as the state AAA semifinals before seeing their season end with a loss to Lee-Davis High of Mechanicsville.
“I expect both to play really well this year,” said Schneeberger, of his two standout players. “Sam has committed to play [collegiately] at Brown University (Providence, Rhode Island) and EmJ at the University of Maine.”
Madison has one other returning starter to this year’s line-up – junior first baseman Allison Grasso.
SCHNEEBERGER said the key to his team’s success this season will be its defensive play in the field. While Brady, who tossed two no-hitters, including a perfect game, at the region playoffs last year, is one of the top pitchers in the region, she will need solid glove play behind her.
“A key to success will be to integrate everyone into a solid defense,” said Schneeberger. “This will take time for everyone to get used to playing on the varsity level. The team has shown in scrimmages it can hit the ball and score some runs. We should have things sorted out by the end of the spring tournament.”
Madison will host its own 15-team Spring Break Tournament over the week of April 8-12. Participating teams in the tournament will include McLean, Westfield, Centreville, West Potomac, Hylton, Stonewall Jackson, Annandale, Yorktown, Lee, Edison, West Springfield, Mount Vernon and Lake Braddock.
Madison and McLean were the top two teams in the Northern Region last year. In the postseason, the Warhawks defeated the Highlanders in both the district and region championship games. At states, McLean went on to capture its first-ever state title with a finals win over Lee-Davis.
While Madison and McLean might not be the same powerhouse teams they were a year ago, they will still both be pretty formidable contenders for the district crown. Schneeberger believes the Liberty District will be competitive throughout.
“Stone Bridge will be strong this year,” he said. “They return a lot of quality players. McLean lost a lot of players, but I expect them to make another run this year. McLean has solid pitching. Langley, Jefferson and South Lakes will be much improved. Fairfax and Marshall lost some key players, including outstanding pitchers.”
This week, Madison was scheduled to host district opponent Fairfax on Tuesday, March 22. This Friday night at 6:30, the Warhawks will play at district foe Langley. The Saxons, under head coach Jessica Roche, are coming off a 7-15 season in 2010. But they opened the new season with a 3-0 win over Robinson last week. Leading Langley in the victory over the Rams was freshmen pitcher Emily Templin, who tossed the shutout on the mound while smacking a pair of doubles at the plate. Langley’s key senior players this spring are team captains Mandy Moll (shortstop) and Courtney Conklin (first base).