Wildcats hope to repeat
HAMMONTON—St. Joseph Academy’s softball team will chase its third-straight South Jersey Non-Public B championship in 2022, but it won’t be easy for head coach Les Olson’s Wildcats.
St. Joe needs to overcome the loss of five starters from last season, including a pair of All-State performers, pitcher Makayla Veneziale and shortstop Brianna Bailey.
Building team chemistry will be a challenge for St. Joe this season as the Wildcats try to mesh 10 new players with the six returning from last year.
“We will only have two players returning to their starting positions from last year. This group has some talent but is far away from being a team first group and there is not a lot of leadership or chemistry on the team. There have already been issues with these that have held the team back in the preseason. If this group can work through some of these issues early in the season, we have a chance to be a real spoiler and could be playing our best softball in the second half of the season,” Olson said.
The bottom of St. Joe’s lineup struggled at times last year, but Olson is confident that he has added enough depth to make the Wildcats tough to pitch to from top to bottom this season.
“We should be able to hit throughout the line-up this year, as we have hitters that potentially can hit for extra bases in every part of the lineup,” he said.
In the pitching circle, St. Joe will look to sophomore Ava Fisher, a transfer from Washington Twp., and Angelina Bill, who was at Hammonton last year.
Olson likes his defense up the middle, where Macie Jacquet returns at catcher after earning All-Cape Atlantic League honors last year. Jacquet blocks the ball well behind the plate, has a strong arm and will bat second after scoring 37 runs and stealing 15 bases last year.
Senior Katie Dainton will leadoff after collecting 42 hits, scoring 43 runs and driving in 37 last season. The talented Dainton will move to shortstop this year after playing second base and catching earlier in her career.
Senior first baseman Xelynn Rodriguez returns after driving in 30 runs last year. Isabella Davis, who is recovering from a serious arm injury, will be in center field, while Jenna Calchi shifts from third base to the outfield this season.
“Katie [Dainton] was an All- CAL first team player twice, she has 77 hits, 73 runs scored and 62 RBIs in her two seasons played. Bella Davis will patrol centerfield with good range., She is fearless going to get the ball and brings a strong bat with her. Along with Macie [Jacquet] Xelynn Rodriguez (formerly Conde) will be our only other returnee that will be at the same position as last year Xelynn will bat third in the lineup coming off a 41 hit, 30 RBI and 14 double season last year,” Olson said.
Rounding out the lineup will be some talented new players.
Fisher will be the number one pitcher and bat cleanup. According to Olson, she throws hard but needs to work on her control in the strike zone.
Bill is nursing an injury and will likely miss the first three weeks of the season. She will pitch and play the outfield once healthy.
Kylie Tomlin, a sophomore transfer, will sit out the first 30 days of the season but should add depth in the outfield later in the year. Two freshman, third baseman Abby Willis and utility player Brooke Tyndale, are expected to contribute. Willis will start and bat in the fifth spot, while Tyndale will move around the diamond.
St. Joseph is in Florida this week and will open the season on April 1 against Watkins Memorial (Ohio).