BRISTOL - The Bristol Central softball team came into the season with a group of talented players, yet the inexperience at the varsity level stood out.
Six of the nine players in the Rams’ lineup were either freshmen or sophomores - Gwen Toresso, Peyton Greger, Morgan Greger, Janessa Bartell, Kayleigh Dionne and Maria Santilli.
The talent on the Bristol Central roster overcame that inexperience and with it, the Rams are postseason-bound after missing the tournament last season for the first time in years.
It’ll be a fresh experience for this year’s group.
“Because they’re so young, they haven’t had the opportunity to play in too many postseason games,” Bristol Central coach Monica Hayes said. “So, yeah, it’ll be fun. We’ve tried to create that atmosphere in the last week or so since we’ve qualified. At practice and in every game, we’ve had the mentality that it is a tournament type game.”
At the top of the Rams’ lineup Jenna Ptak (junior) and Kayla Beaulieu (junior) will be important tone-setters and have been all season long in the 1-2 hole.
But the Rams will need strong performances out of the two players who hit behind them, Peyton Greger and Toresso. Both players are standout young talents, Greger a sophomore and Toresso a freshman.
Greger just completed her first regular season as the starting pitcher after playing shortstop on last year’s team. It was a challenge to come in and be the go-to pitcher but Greger delivered big time improvement over the course of the 20-game season.
After allowing 59 runs as a team in the first 10 games, Bristol Central allowed just 29 in the second half of the season, representative of not only Greger’s improvement but also the defensive play behind her in the field.
Six of the Rams nine wins came in the second half of the year.
“She was given an opportunity to pitch and I think she has taken this opportunity and she’s run with it,” Hayes said. “She’s turned it into everything that you should do when you have opportunities as an athlete. The fact that she has taken advantage of this and turned it into a positive for her and everyone else, that’s just a life skill that I think she’ll have to fall back on. She can say ‘I’ve taken advantage of the last opportunity I was given and I’m going to take advantage of the next opportunity’ whether it’s in sports or not.”
Greger has also delivered big hits offensively in the No. 4 spot behind Toresso.
Being a freshman in the No. 3 spot is no easy task but Toresso has made it look that way. She’s been in the middle of the lineup all season for Bristol Central and hasn’t let it put added pressure on her.
“It’s just another spot for me, I had to come in and step up and I know I have to come in and help the team in any way I can,” Toresso said.
The final game of the season against Bristol Eastern gave Bristol Central some motivation they can hang in there with the best of the best.
“I think [against Bristol Eastern] we played an excellent game and it’s a positive motivation for all of us,” Toresso said. “Especially since we’re all younger I think it lets us know that we have what it takes to go into the tournament and play some good games.”
Whether the Rams advance out of the first round of the postseason is another question but Bristol Central has proven it’s here to stick around and the young players will only get better.
“Our goal really was to grow as a team and get better each game and each practice,” Greger said. “Just being able to compete more [in the postseason] and keep the season going shows that we did.”
Dan Orencole can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org