The Stratford Brakettes open their 2012 women’s major softball season Friday night at DeLuca Hall of Fame Field with a 7:00 pm doubleheader against the Newtown (PA) Rock. Gates will open at 5:30 pm, with tickets starting at just $5.
The Brakettes will also take part in the last two games of a tripleheader on Saturday, with games against the Rock and Stratford Seahawks at 6:00 and 8:00, respectively. The Rock and Seahawks will kick off the trifecta with a 4:00 faceoff. The Brakettes and Rock close out Opening Weekend with a 1:00 doubleheader on Sunday.
This will be the Brakettes’ 66th consecutive season of play and Manager John Stratton has once again assembled a powerful unit that is eager to defend their Women’s Major Softball National Championship. The tournament will be played August 9-12 at DeLuca Field with 12 teams already committed.
Last year’s team captured their second straight WMS championship and the team’s 30th national crown overall. The Brakettes posted a 63-0 record, marking only the second time in history that they finished with a perfect record. The 1971 team went 57-0.
Entering Friday’s doubleheader the Brakettes have won an unprecedented 119 games in a row. The last loss came on June 4, 2010 on opening night as the Rock won the second game of the doubleheader, 7-3. After that setback, the Brakettes swept the next 56 games en route to a 57-1 record and their first WMS title.
The Brakettes will have five first-team All-Americans at their disposal as they open the season. First baseman Stephanie Call (Florida Atlantic), second baseman Ashley Waters (Maine), left fielder Becca Carden (Arkansas), right fielder Denise Denis (UMASS) and pitcher Brandice Balschmiter (UMASS) are all back on the squad in 2012.
Balschmiter fashioned a 23-0 record last year with 219 strikeouts in 124 innings. She is 80-7 in her five-year Brakettes career. Call annihilated the team’s single-season home run record with 31 in 2011, and also erased the RBI mark with 91. Both records were previously held by ASA Hall of Famer Pat Dufficy (15 HRS and 90 RBI).
Waters enjoyed a career season with a .411 batting average on 16 doubles, five triples and eight home runs. She also drove in 48 and scored 75. Carden put together a .485 rookie campaign on 83 hits, nine home runs and 41 RBI.
Denis moved into second on the all-time home run list with 53. Denis hit .439 with 24 extra base hits and 10 home runs and 52 RBI. Other returning starters are former Florida Atlantic shortstop Mandie Fishback (.420, 45 RBI) and former Regis University catcher Alisa Heronema (.458). She committed only two errors in 420 chances last year.
Stratton has added another arm to the roster this year in 5-foot-10 right-hander Stacy Birk of Huntington Beach, CA. Birk currently is an assistant coach at the University of Albany following an outstanding collegiate career at Illinois State and two years with the Philadelphia Force of the NPF. She hit the game-winning home run against the Brakettes in a 2-0 win July 2, 2009 in Allentown.
The Brakettes set a new home run record with 103 last year, smashing 38 more homers than the previous best set in 2003. Call, Carly Normandin (20), Kristyn Sandberg (11) and Denis all hit double digits. Sandberg, a recent University of Georgia grad, and UMass pitching ace Sarah Plourde were both drafted by the National Pro Fastpitch League this spring and they will become the 24th and 25th ex-Brakettes to play in the pro league.
Stratford will again enjoy quite the local connection in 2012, as Newtown’s Kate Bowen (Fordham), Stratford’s Sarah Calgreen (AIC), player-coach and Easton native Amber Radomski (AIC) and Brookfield’s Mariel Schlaefer (Lauralton Hall H.S.) complete the roster. Schlaefer can’t play until Lauralton Hall’s season ends.
BRAKETTES BRIEFS- The Rock scored six of the nine runs allowed by the Brakettes last year. They also finished runner-up in the 2011 ASA Gold Nationals. Manager Rick Waye’s club is a perennial national tournament contender and all 16 players on his team have been offered college scholarships. . . CPTV Sports will televise at least 8 Brakettes home games this year. Locally, Connecticut’s only all-sports cable channel is found on Channel 139 on your Cablevision dial. . . Brakettes media director Rob Baird will once again handle the play-by-play as all of the team’s 2012 home games will be video webcast at www.brakettes.com. . . The Coastal Cordsmen will sing the National Anthem, while the VFW Post 9460 honor guard presents the colors. . . Becca Carden will be presented the 2011 batting championship trophy before the game. . . The success of the LSU and South Florida softball teams in the NCAA Super Regionals last weekend will leave the team without three players during Opening Weekend. LSU's Rachele Fico, who is 72-0 in her Brakettes career, and first-year outfielder Tammy Vermeulen of (Patchogue, NY) will be in Oklahoma City for the College World Series, as will be South Florida's Jess Mouse, who is returning to the Brakettes after missing last year with an injury. Two-time batting champion Carly Normandin (UMASS) also will miss opening weekend because she recently began a new job, but she is set to return on June 7 for her fourth year with the team. Normandin hit .461 with 20 home runs and 68 RBI last year.