St. Joseph schedules strong opponents to prep for postseason

St. Joseph's Lauren Wasikowski, Niamh Dougherty and Brooke Buzzeo are team captains.

St. Joseph's Lauren Wasikowski, Niamh Dougherty and Brooke Buzzeo are team captains.

Bill Bloxsom / Hearst Connecticut Media

St. Joseph softball coach Jeff Babineau has the pieces in place to fulfill a team goal of returning to the state finals. To help in that pursuit, he has put together as competitive a schedule as possible, including a pair with Masuk, the team that ended St. Joe’s season a year ago at 22-2 in the Class L title game.

“I scheduled five tough non-conference games to get us ready for FCIACs and the playoffs,” said Babineau who is sitting at 235 wins for 11 active seasons, three behind Pat Pardee’s mark of 238 in 16 seasons. “We have Masuk twice, Sheehan, Newtown and will make a trip to New Jersey to play Ramapo and St. Dominick’s. We’ll spend the weekend down there, make it like a college trip. It will be good.”

Lauren Wasikowski, Niamh Dougherty and Brooke Buzzeo are team captains.

“We have both pitchers back with Lauren and Brooke. They are both very talented seniors. We are blessed to have them,” Babineau said. “I can give Lauren some rest. I can give Brooke innings. They have different pitching characteristics, so teams don’t get the same look.

“Niamh Dougherty caught for us last year as a freshman and was outstanding. What we’ve done is move Niamh to shortstop. She is a great athlete and I need someone to anchor our infield. The catcher we have, Kelsea Flanagan, is very good. Now we have got to get her up to game speed. That is the reason we scheduled very good teams for our scrimmages (Amity, Woodland, Naugatuck, Foran, West Haven).”

St. Joseph has won seven state championships. Using its entire roster has helped the process.

Babineaum said: “Take last year’s team. We graduated four seniors from the roster. What I try to do is keep a freshman/sophomore ready behind them. We get them experience. A lot of those kids saw live action. They didn’t get 28 games, but they got maybe 8-10 games. It matures them a bit quicker than throwing them into the fire when they are ready. All the girls on a roster support each other and have fun. That is important to me.”

The infield is a mix of players new to positions.

“Riley McDermott is back at first. She’s a junior with a good glove and pop with her bat. Right now, we are looking at Kyra McCarthy at second base. Kyra is an experienced player who played for us as a freshman. She missed the COVID year and last year. It’s great to have her back as a senior,” Babineau said. “Janelli Pratts will play at third. She is a sophomore who apprenticed last year at that position. She hit nine home runs last year. She is very savvy at third with a phenomenal arm. With her bat and glove, hopefully she’ll play there for three years.”

The outfield is solid.

“Lauren Davis will be in left field. She has a good arm and a good bat. We’re moving Cocco Bartone, my favorite name, to center from a corner spot. She is quick and can defend gap to gap,” Babineau said. “Jill Guilfoyle is a sophomore back to start in right field for her second season. She is a good power hitter and like all our outfielders has a strong arm. It is fun to watch her play.

“Brooke Buzzeo can be the designated player. Analise Hubert, Alana Beerli and Ceira Gallagher, a left slapper and courtesy runner, are reserve outfielders.”

Babineau is looking forward to bringing his team back to New Jersey for two games on April 10.

“We went there many years ago before COVID. Tom Pardalis from Manhattan College, who I got to know with kids getting recruited, mentioned his friend Diana Fasano who played at Fairfield U and is now head coach at Immaculate Heart Academy,” Babineau said. “We connected. It is great competition, state champions from all their Tier levels. You’ll get whatever you want out of it. We’ve gone down there, a couple years. We’ve lost some won the last time. There are 12 teams. You play one, two or three games. They give you teams to play they think are comparable to where you are.”

Sheehan visits to open the season Saturday at 10:30. Twitter: @blox354