CASSIE SLEEPER will do much of the leg work on the mound for the Melrose High softball team this season. (file photo)


Blend of youth & experience in 2022



MELROSE—The Melrose High softball team returns after a playoff-qualifying season in 2021 and they are loaded with experience and some youthful swagger that could see this team positioned for lots of victories in 2022.

They will be led by senior captains Ava Burns, Lauren Overlan and Maddie Kozlowski, returning starters who helped Melrose behind the plate and in the outfield last year. Returning starters include all star pitcher Cassie Sleeper, all star catcher Kozlowski, all star short stop Maddie Tobin, center fielder Ava Burns and outfielder Lauren Overlan. Look for senior Itia Figueira and junior Sarah Hitchman to also use their upperclass experience to help Melrose. New and very promising faces include freshman Paige Crovo, Leah Fowke and Ava Viola.

The major advantage heading into this spring is the return of batterymates Cassie Sleeper and Maddie Kozlowski. The two all stars will work hard on the mound and behind the plate to keep Melrose competitive in what is shaping up to be a strong Middlesex League.

Sleeper was in pure form when Melrose opened their season against Woburn on Tuesday at Pine Banks. Despite the loss to league champion Tanners, Sleeper shined on the mound with 9 strikeouts. Says Melrose head coach Kelly Smith (former O’Neil), “Cassie has opened up and looks stronger than ever. She is coming out of the gate with leading most counts very early on.”

Melrose had some solid batting support by standout hitters, including freshman Paige Crovo who scored Melrose’s first run on an RBI double. Maddie Kozlowski went 2-3 including a double and Maddie Tobin was 2-4 and found two holes in the gap. Senior Lauren Overlan also went 3-3. Though the efforts didn’t translate into a win expect this to be a sample of what they can do.

Around the horn, positional players may include: First base: Ava Viola / Leah Fowke; second base Paige Crovo; shortstop Maddie Tobin; third base Itia Figueira; right field Sarah Hitchman; center field Ava Burns; and left field Lauren Overlan. Back up pitching duties may come in the form of Leah Fowke.

Says Smith, “Our bats are connecting early. The fielding needs some work but it will get there. Fielding is always our number one strength so I have no worries.”

The league will be a challenge as usual this year. With Melrose already facing the best (Woburn) they can put those opponents behind them and focus on the more comparable teams in their 20 game schedule. Says the coach, “We have strong freshman adding a promising mix to our already strong upperclassmen. It’s been nice seeing the leadership and love for the game trickle down. We are very lucky to have great leaders in both our senior and junior class.”

After a canceled 2020 season and a shortened 2021 season, Smith is looking forward to a long, competitive season. “We’re able to play teams we haven’t seen in a few years which is always great. If we clean up our fielding and continue to string together our hits we will be in a very good place.”

Check out Melrose in action when they host Reading at Pine Banks on Friday at 4:15 p.m.