NORTH ADAMS -- Last year is done. For that, the MCLA softball team can be thankful.
The Trailblazers struggled through a 6-33 season without a bunch of anticipated starters and their top two pitchers.
The positive, as coach Mike Ameen sees it, is he won six games with a less experienced bunch last year. The Trailblazers feature three seniors, five sophomores and six freshmen this year.
On top of that, the team has some depth this year, especially at the most crucial position -- pitcher.
"We’re better off this year than we were last year in terms of numbers," Ameen said. "Last year, I had Ainsley [MacDonald] as a junior and I really had nobody else. ... This year, I have depth actually. I have three additional pitchers. ... So I have four kids on the roster that actually can throw innings for us and be competitive for us."
As for the team’s strength residing in the pitching circle, that is yet to be determined. But, one thing is for sure: The coach has athletes to work with in the circle.
Aside from MacDonald, MCLA had two other pitchers last year that had never thrown before. Kelly Pirzl Kendig joined midway through the season to try and help, too.
This year, the Trailblazers have some pitchers.
MacDonald, now a senior, still leads the way. She got the ball to open the season Feb. 25 when MCLA played a pair of games against Lyndon State inside. She’ll get the ball again today when the Trailblazers continue their schedule against Worcester Polytechnical Institute at the Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic in Florida.
She’ll be joined by former Hoosac Valley standout Amanda Meczywor, who Ameen coached while at Hoosac. Rayelle Pierson, who played at St. Joseph’s, and Abigail Lucas (Braintree High School) are the other two who will see time in the circle.
"To go from [one pitcher last year] to having four kids in the gym that can throw strikes, my reaction was ‘Wow, this is a lot better,’ " Ameen said.
Solid pitching by itself should earn MCLA a few more wins off the top.
"I don’t want to jinx myself," Ameen said, "but I think our strength at the beginning is we put the ball in play."
At the top of that lineup is senior center fielder Kendra Hobbs. She batted only .238 last year, but she led the team in runs scored with 20. She also tied for the team lead in stolen bases with six.
"She’s a good little center fielder and leadoff hitter," Ameen said. "Fast as lightning; gets on base, scores runs; hits for power. She’s a good player."
Ameen wouldn’t divulge much more of his starting nine. But sophomore Angelica Perfido, who led the team with a .298 average and 31 hits and tied Hobbs with six steals, should be in one of the corner outfield positions. Senior Kaitland Hager also figures to be in the starting nine. She finished with a .242 average and 22 hits. After that, it’s a play-your-way-into-the-lineup opportunity.
"I do have 14 kids on the roster and generically, I think I have three or four kids that are obvious starters," Ameen said. "I have 10 kids that are a talented bunch of kids that are going to push each other and are going to compete and earn spots."