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Cooperstown aims for sectional repeat as softball season begins

Mar. 29—Spring is finally here, meaning the high school sports schedule is turning to softball season, with a handful of teams already taking the field.

Cooperstown enters the season looking to defend its Class III Section C championship, but will have to do so without five key starters from a year ago, including Danielle Seamon, the reigning Daily Star Player of the Year.

"There's no replacing that," Cooperstown coach Bud Lippitt said of Seamon. "She was a fabulous player."

"One of our best players from the last few years is Katie Crippen, our catcher," Lippitt said when asked who may step up for the Hawkeyes. "She's going to be our best player, our go-to. She's one of my captains this year."

"Our other captain is senior Tori France at shortstop," he added. "We look to them for leadership. Tori is one of our speedy runners, she plays a really good shortstop, gets on base a lot so that is going to be the key to leading this group of young girls."

Emmy Lippitt, who earned the win in Cooperstown's season opener at Sidney Tuesday, will be doing most of the pitching in the absence of Seamon.

Cooperstown is not alone in facing the challenge of filling holes left by graduating players.

Laurens/Milford will be without Gabby Andrades and Taylor Beckley who played a large part in the team's first year as a merged squad that resulted in a 16-4 record and a Tri-Valley League title.

But Weir said several players are ready to take another step this year.

"Brooke Mann was one of our pitchers last year; she'll be key," Weir said. "Lexi Sutphin was our leading hitter, Kara Mertz was one of our top hitters and she was also our number two pitcher, Kyrah Andrades was our centerfielder and she had a really good year as a freshman last year.

"We're looking for big things from Bella Garkick and Bailey Rondeau, so we were trying to patch the holes and were trying to put things back together."

Abbie Platt and Madie Dening are among the key losses facing Oneonta.

Two key seniors for the Yellowjackets will be shortstop Izzy Giacomelli and catcher/centerfielder Emma Burr. Giacomelli moved from second base to fill in for Platt and will bat leadoff for OHS.

Junior Natalie VanZandt will also be playing a large role as the first baseman and three-hole hitter, as well as sophomore Logan Jipson, who will play third base and bat first or second in the lineup.

"I really have a core of five sophomores. That's the group that's really coming together," OHS coach Randy Brockway said.

"We've got two pitchers, a sophomore and a freshman, with Lily Bridger and Ivy Tice. They need to work together. We're three catchers strong so if they work together, they can hopefully be a tough duo as we go through this year and into the next couple years."

All three coaches understand nothing will come easy as they navigate difficult conferences and schedules.

"Both division and non division, we are going to have a pretty tough schedule," Lippitt said.

"My goal is going to be to play hard, play these really tough teams to the best of our abilities," he added. "I feel like this team, as young as we are, are just going to keep getting better throughout the year. What people see from us in the first half of the season is not going to be anything like what we are at the end of the season."

"Edmeston/Morris is going to be tough." Weir said of L/M's Tri-Valley League opponents. "We played them twice last year and both were very good games and Schenevus should be tough. [CV-S/SS], Dave Bliss coaches and you never know what they're going to come up with, he's a good coach and he works the kids and they're very athletic kids up there, obviously, with what they've done."

Weir went on to mention Franklin, Richfield Springs and Worcester as a few more teams he expects could have good seasons.

"I don't think any game is going to be easy," Brockway said of Oneonta's schedule. "We play non league games with Cooperstown, who is definitely going to be tough; they're a good team. Windsor went to the State Final Four last year, they're certainly going to be toward the top in our division. Susquehanna Valley were the top in their division this year so they're going to be the key teams that you have to battle with in order to get past the sectionals."

With younger rosters still coming together, each of these coaches will be taking the season one step at a time, but do have an idea what their goals are for their teams.

"I think we're going to be at our best when we get to the end of the regular season, heading into sectionals," Lippitt said. "My goal, right now, I'd like to win at least two sectional games. I think we totally have the potential to do that, and maybe even upset some teams, depending on how well these girls do developing."

Cooperstown will be defending their sectional title and Lippitt believes the experience of his returning players will make a difference for the younger players on the team.

"They're very seasoned in the realm of the experience of sectional play," he said. "They're going to do a really nice job of guiding these younger girls.

"I think that's not going to be a situation where our girls get nervous, because the way this team is gelling already, we've got a really good group of girls. They all see the team aspect. There's no one that is selfish. Everyone is looking to get better every day, every practice, and we don't have any drama. That's a wonderful thing to have at this point in the season."

"Our main goal will be to get into the top four of the league playoffs, that's the ultimate goal for anybody to start with and hopefully we can get there." Weir said of L/M's upcoming campaign.

"We're looking forward to it and the kids are working hard, so that's what we're trying to do," he added.

"Our goal is just to make small increments daily and weekly and I think when you look too far ahead, especially at this level, you just get caught up," Brockway said. "I just think you've gotta play one game at a time."

Returning players from the area who were Daily Star All-Stars in 2023 include: Katie Crippen (Cooperstown), Natalie Amadon, Josie Butler, Abby Vroman and Brinlee Wright (Charlotte Valley), Caitlyn Ciaravino (Roxbury/Gilboa), Ashtyn Hansen and Hannah Tuttle (Windham-Ashland-Jewett), Alli Ferrara (Delhi), Kylee Noyes (Harpursville), Margaret Rovente (Oxford), Ava Cirigliano and Adrianna Tanner (Sidney), Bailey McCoy (Unatego), Izzy Giacomelli (Oneonta), Lexi Dygert (CV-S/SS), Brooke Mann, Kara Mertz and Lexi Sutphin (Laurens/Milford), Hannah Wist (Edmeston/Morris) and Autumn Burton (Schenevus).