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<B>Caitlyn Arellano throws a pitch for Burr and Burton Academy during a game last season. (Journal File)</B>

MANCHESTER -- The start of the season is just around the corner and this year the Burr and Burton Academy softball team will be looking to make even more strides and improve on their performance last year.

The Bulldogs posted a 5-11 record last season and lost to St. Albans in the opening round of the playoffs. However, the team showed signs of improvement over the previous season and coach Dan DeForest expects good things from this year's squad.

"I have a nucleus of six returning players from last year's varsity team. While we lost some really quality players from last year's team, I'm excited about the group that's come back for this year," said DeForest. "They've come back with a lot of experience.

Caitlyn Arellano throws a pitch for Burr and Burton Academy during a game last season. (Journal File)
Caitlyn Arellano throws a pitch for Burr and Burton Academy during a game last season. (Journal File)
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Senior Caitlyn Arellano returns to the mound for her third year as a starter. However, DeForest said he also plans to use her in other roles as well.

"She's a really knowegable softball player so she's a great one for us to build around," said DeForest. "I can use her in a variety of positions and I really think this year I won't only use her on the mound. I think we'll see her in different spots because she can help us anywhere."

If Arellano were to be used in a different position sophomore Darien Halliday and junior Kristi Lewicki would be two of the other players to get the starting nod on the hill.

"We can use Darien in a variety of positions, but she would certainly be our next go to pitcher," said DeForest. "Kristi Lewicki has thrown. She hasn't been practicing off the mound much this year because I've had her working at catcher and first base, which was her position last year. But we're moving some people around because we lost some really quality people at other positions."

Last year the team lost Libby Merrill, Meghan Kardas, Taylor Smith and Rachel Peloquin, all of whom had played three or four years under DeForest and composed the bulk of the team's infield.

With the graduation of Smith last year, Lewicki may spend more time behind the dish this spring along with senior Sierra Sowl.

"This is her first year playing and she hasn't played softball in a while, but she's caught before," said DeForest of Sowl. "So, having someone whose willing to catch is huge at the varsity level."

Lewicki spent the majority of her time last year at first base and DeForest said he believes she is one of the best defensive first basemen in the state.

Kyle Gatewood - who will see some time in outfield this year - and Katelyn Reilly are among the returning members of the team and ones that DeForest said he expects to step up this season.

Sophomore Rachel Senecal - who batted cleanup for the team last year - is back and DeForest hopes she will again be able to help provide some pop to the offense.

Seniors Rachel Foster and Kya Davis - who spent some time at the varsity level last season - have made the varsity squad this year and will be vying for playing time in different positions, DeForest said.

Junior Hannah Goepel - who DeForest said has been handling the bat well so far in practice - and sophomore Jackie Nutter who had experience at shortstop and second and third base last year at the junior varsity level have also moved up to varsity this season.

"They're both quality players and we're looking for them to step up," said DeForest. "Meghan Kardas was a tremendous second baseman so we're looking for someone to fill those shoes."

Foreign exchange student Laura Gutierrez - who is new to the sport of softball - rounds out the roster.

The team began practicing a couple of weeks ago and DeForest said he has been encouraged so far from the batting practice that the team has taken in the gym.

"I feel like this team is going to have some offensive punch, both the players that I brought up to the varsity and the returning players, and that's going to be nice to have on our side," he said.

The Bulldogs are scheduled to open their season on April 22 at Green Mountain Academy. They will have their first home stand against Poultney on April 28 at BBA beginning at 4:30 p.m.