St. Joe softball to field “a unique group”

Maddy Fitzgerald, Claire Gardella and Brittany Mairano are captains for coach Jeff Babineau.

Maddy Fitzgerald, Claire Gardella and Brittany Mairano are captains for coach Jeff Babineau.

David G. Whitham / For Hearst Connecticut Media

Maddy Fitzgerald hit a game-winning home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to lift the St. Joseph softball team to a 1-0 victory over long-time rival Masuk.

The win for St. Joseph, ranked fourth in GameTimeCT Preseason Top 10 over No. 1 ranked Masuk, came in a scrimmage but the setting was pure postseason.

St. Joseph coach Jeff Babineau had the same tone after the victory that he has used when describing any of his Cadets’ two state or five FCIAC titles.

“There were a lot of fans in attendance to watch two powerhouse teams in a scrimmage with, two good pitchers,” Babineau said. “It was exactly like a playoff game. Each pitcher had 10 strikeouts, we had three hits, Masuk two. It was good softball.”

St. Joseph, Class M champs in 2018 and FCIAC champions in 2018 and 2019, and Masuk, winners of two straight Class L titles before COVID-19 cancelled the 2020 campaign, will work toward a return match in this year’s state tournament when the season opens on Saturday.

“I think we will be a more diversified team this year,” Babineau said. “We have a good mix of power, kids who can launch it and get it out of here. A nice thing is we also have a bunch of kids that can run. The last few years, we were station to station and if we hit for power that would get us the extra base. This is a unique group and will be a fun to coach.”

Fitzgerald, a two-time All-State choice at shortstop who will play Division I ball at Bryant, Claire Gardella and Brittany Mairano are captains.

“Maddy is an incredible student of the game and a major force for us, Claire has played left field for three years and Brittany will move from right field to center. It is a comfort to have a strong nucleus back to go with some talented sophomores,” said Babineau whose lineup with have four seniors, three sophomores, a junior and a freshman. “We never got to see those sophs play last year.”

Lauren Wasikowski, this year’s starting pitcher was notable to Babineau because the junior right-hander had pitched varsity at Lauralton Hall as a freshman.

“Lauren is a power-hitting pitcher that runs well, she’s legit,” Babineau said. “If we had played (last year) we would have had Payton Doiron back, but Lauren steps right in.”

Niamh Dougherty will be the starting catcher.

“A phenomenal catcher, she can run like the wind and hits for power. Niamh has all the tools,” Babineau said of his sophomore. “She will lead off for us. It’s like having a No. 4 hitter at the top of the order with speed.”

Babineau called Riley McDermott, another sophomore, who will start at first base “a solid defensive player with a good bat.”

Mia Alicea is St. Joe’s fourth senior starter and will play second base.

“As a sophomore she was a courtesy runner on our state championship roster. You can lose track of them after a year away, but Mia opened our eyes. She is a good defensive player with a high softball IQ.”

Coco Bartone will start at third base and Jillian Guilfoyle in right field.

“You have to love that name, it is perfect for a softball player and I told her that,” Babineau said of Bartone his third sophomore starter. “Coco can run and is a good contact hitter. Jillian is a freshman who came in and won the job. She bats left-handed with power.

“Kristen Ruby is a senior utility player who can play outfield and pinch run. We are happy to have junior Brooke Buzzeo with us. She is a good pitcher with winning stuff.”

St. Joseph open at Trumbull Saturday at 11 a.m.

“The FCIAC has expanded and is going to allow 16 teams in. The high seed team will be home team throughout the playoffs,” said Babineau, who has a 211-41 record and will be assisted by Mike Laguardia, Mike Repko and Chris Pelletier.

“We have a full schedule and are also paired up with an extra game against a team of equal success (Trumbull) over the past few seasons. This Saturday’s game is non-league. We will meet Trumbull again in mid-May.” Twitter: @blox354