North Haven Softball Wins Thriller in Season Opener
Senior captain Olivia Olson pitched six strong innings in her first varsity start to help the North Haven softball squad earn a 7-6 win in its opening game of the spring season. Fellow senior captain Alex Ferriouolo hit an inside-the-park homer to give North Haven the lead in the top of the seventh inning. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Sydney Maenza (right) is leading the North Haven softball team as a senior captain alongside her sister Jordan Maenza, Alex Ferriouolo, and Olivia Olson during the 2021 campaign. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Junior Caroline Toni hit a two-double to help North Haven claim a 7-6 win at Shelton in its season opener on April 13. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Junior third baseman Maria Lockery is a key part of an infield that made some great plays for North Haven in its first two games this year. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Following a two-year wait to take the field, the North Haven softball team returned to the diamond last week and posted a dramatic victory in its 2021 season opener. On April 13, North Haven kicked off its campaign by playing a road game in Shelton and claimed a 7-6 win after scoring the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh inning.
North Haven took a 7-1 loss to Amity later in the week for a 1-1 start to the year.
North Haven and Shelton were locked in a 6-6 tie entering the top of the seventh inning. With one out, senior captain Alex Ferriouolo stepped up to the plate and hit an inside-the-park home run that gave North Haven a one-run edge. Shelton put two runners on base during the bottom of the seventh, but senior captain Olivia Olson escaped the jam to solidify a 7-6 victory for Head Coach Karen Castagnola’s squad.
“It was great. It was a back-and-forth game. A battle of the bats,” Coach Castagnola said. “They never gave up. We’re a little bit young and inexperienced, so I was really happy with the outcome, as they were. They have been working hard.”
North Haven pushed home the first run of the game when sophomore Kayla Balisciano scored on a fielder’s choice by Ferriouolo. Shelton came back with two runs in the bottom of the second inning to take a 2-1 lead.
North Haven went up 3-2 by scoring a pair of runs in the fourth inning. First, sophomore Maria Lockery doubled home junior Caroline Toni to tie the game. Lockery later came around to score on a single by junior Alexys Signor to give North Haven the lead. Shelton responded with a run in the bottom of the fourth to make it 3-3.
North Haven grabbed a 6-3 advantage by putting up three-spot in the top of the fifth. Junior Jamie Swiatek singled and then scored on an error for the first run. Later in the frame, Toni roped a two-run double that scored senior captain Sydney Maenza and junior Anna Schepisi to give North Haven a three-run lead.
Shelton didn’t go away quietly. The Gaels scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning and one more in the sixth to knot the score at 6.
Shelton had the momentum at this point, but Ferriouolo put an end to that when she hit her inside-the-park round-tripper to give North Haven a 7-6 lead in the top of the seventh inning. The Gaels tried to mount one last rally when they got the potential tying and winning runs aboard in the bottom of the seventh. However, Olson left them stranded by retiring the last two batters of the game as North Haven came away with a nail-biting victory.
Olson pitched the first five innings for North Haven. Maenza worked the sixth inning, and then Olson came back to pitch the seventh and finish it off. Swiatek had two singles in the win.
North Haven features four seniors on its roster this year, and all four are team captains. North Haven’s senior captains are Ferriouolo, who starts at shortstop; Olson, who pitches and plays the outfield; Sydney Maenza, a pitcher and first baseman; and her sister Jordan Maenza, a catcher.
Ferriouolo has the most varsity experience of anyone in the senior class. She was brought up to the varsity squad in her freshman year and played shortstop as a sophomore. Coach Castagnola said that all four of her senior captains are doing a phenomenal job of guiding a young North Haven club.
“They have been great with leading this team. There is so much youth, and they are keeping them all positive as they work with them,” said Castagnola. “The four of them are all natural leaders, and they are doing a great job. I am very proud of all of them.”
Olson and Sydney Maenza are two of North Haven’s pitchers this year. North Haven also has three freshmen in the pitching mix in Ninamarie DeMennato, Gabriella Blanchard, and Reece Hebert.
Coach Castagnola likes the fact that North Haven has pitching depth on its roster. Castagnola said that Olson turned in “a terrific outing” versus Shelton in the first varsity start of her career and added that she’s “improved tenfold” from when she played for the JV team two years ago.
One day after defeating Shelton, North Haven faced Amity on the road on April 14. North Haven dropped a 7-1 decision against the Spartans in the contest.
After Amity scored two runs in the first inning, North Haven plated its lone run of the game in the top of the third when Lockery walked and scored on a single by Ferriouolo to make it 2-1. Amity came back with three runs in the bottom of the third and then tacked on two more runs in the sixth to get the 7-1 victory.
Sydney Maenza started on the mound and pitched three innings versus Amity. DeMennato tossed the last three innings and allowed two runs in her first varsity appearance.
Jordan Maenza and Balisciano are sharing catcher’s duties for North Haven. Coach Castagnola said that both “have strong arms and have proven they can do the job behind the plate.”
Sydney Maenza is starting at first base. Swiatek is playing second base with Ferriouolo at shortstop and Lockery at third. Junior Megan Cross and sophomore Juliana Galasso also play first base for the team. Coach Castagnola was impressed with the defensive play of North Haven’s infield in the team’s first two games, saying that they made “some special plays” against both Shelton and Amity.
Junior Juliana DeAngelo and Schepisi are both patrolling left field for North Haven. Signor is starting in right field, and Toni is playing in center field. Toni had previously been an infielder, but Castagnola moved her to the outfield to serve as the leader of the group this year.
Coach Castagnola has been pleased to see some tremendous enthusiasm from her team through the early goings of the season. Castagnola said that all of her players bring an excellent attitude to the field every day and are having so much fun that they never want to leave.
“They are all really excited to play, and our practices are running over, because they don’t want to stop. They want to keep going, and that is a good sign,” said Castagnola. “They have a great attitude, and it’s a great bunch. They all like each other, they all support each other, and they cheer each other on. They’re just so happy to be back on the field and playing.”
Coaching a program that’s had a winning tradition for quite some time, Castagnola wants North Haven to see continued success during the 2021 campaign. Right now, though, Castagnola’s biggest goal is for her team to get a little better each day as her athletes gain experience and embrace their opportunity to play softball this spring.
“Our goal is to take it one day at a time, one game at a time, one inning at a time, and just go out and play hard every day,” Castagnola said. “I am very happy with the first week and with the whole situation overall. I am excited about this crew and their future.”
Castagnola’s coaching staff includes Roy Castagnola, along with Vin Cretella and program alum Sarah Lombardi, who are co-head coaches of the JV team. Frank Maher is North Haven’s statistician.