NORTH ADAMS -- The Drury softball team was a solid team up and down the lineup and all over the field. As a result, the Blue Devils made it all the way to the Western Massachusetts final last year.
They may be even better this year, and coach Mary Ann Maroni knows it.
"I see us finishing really strong this year," she said. "With the fact that we have a lot of returning players, if everyone stays healthy -- that is a key right there, if everyone stays healthy -- then I see us finishing quite well."
The Blue Devils have two positions to fill.
The first is at second base. Former senior captain Lyndsey DeGrenier left big shoes to fill, on the field, in the lineup and in the leadership department.
Maroni thinks she's got a good idea of who will have the tall task of taking over that spot, and it's Katie Hancock. The senior moves over from shortstop.
"Katie definitely has the leadership to anchor the infield, and she's got pretty good range to cover first field if she needs to," Maroni said. "I told her she has some pretty big shoes to fill, but I am very confident that she can do so."
The move forces Maroni to find a new shortstop, and who that will be is a "toss up." The two leading candidates are Allison Cellana and Amber Iacuessa. Both are juniors, received a good deal of playing time last season and have the softball IQ to handle playing short.
"They're going to have to fight it out among themselves," Maroni said.
One spot there won't be any fighting is at the hot corner. Senior Laryssa LaPointe has third base on lock down, and will help to bring leadership to the left side of the infield.
Another spot with a no-doubt starter is right in the middle of the infield. Cat Record returns to the circle as the team's go-to pitcher again. Maroni said senior Sarah Royal may also find herself with some time in the circle. Royal didn't play last year, but came back out for the team in her final year. Haleigh Hazard could also see some innings.
Who they will be pitching to isn't solidified yet. Freshman Ingrid Olsen, who saw some innings behind the plate last year, and Iacuessa are fighting for the starting spot.
The final spot in the infield is also up for grabs. Maroni said freshman Arianna Hilchey hasn't been feeling well. Junior Emily Moulton, who split time there last year with Hilchey, may get the starts early. As the only left-hander on the team, she's in the ideal position.
"Emily's a nice left-hander over there, and that's kind of a rarity for Drury," the coach said. "We don't very often get left-handers."
In the outfield, two of three spots are available. Amanda Ramsdell will be patrolling center field, that's penned in. The corners are where the questions lie.
The loss of Danielle Cardinal has left the left side open, and eighth-grader Alanza Quinones and Cat Marceau are battling for the starting spot. What happens with left field will help determine who plays right field; although, junior Jordan Vanuni may have the inside track.
There are plenty of questions about the opening day lineup, but Maroni knows one thing is for certain.
"I told them straight up I'm going to play the best nine, and the best nine depends upon each individual practice," Maroni said. "So we might see some different lineups out there this year depending on how healthy they stay and how they perform during practices."