Published April 4, 2019

NORTH READING — Once again, the NRHS softball team has a lot to live up to.

Following an undefeated regular season and a Div. 2 North championship, the Hornets, who lost in the state semifinals last year, will need to reset their focus for the 2019 season.

North Reading returns four seniors: Jessica Ferrazani, Leah Ferrazani, Cassandra Pascucci and Emma Valade.

Pascucci will be North Reading’s ace this year as well as one of their most dependable hitters. Pascucci led last year’s team with 36 hits and 32 RBIs to go with her .429 batting average. In the circle, Pascucci pitched 82.1 innings, racking up 83 strikeouts with a 1.44 earned run average.

JULIA HOWSE tags out a Wakefield runner at second as Jess Ferrazzani and Cassandra Pascucci (23) help make the out call during a scrimmage at NRHS on March 30. (John Friberg Photo)

Jessica Ferrazzani will look to build on a strong junior season in which she collected 22 hits and 15 RBIs.

The junior class is represented by Elli DeCleene, Julia DiNapoli and Emma Lord.

The returning sophomores will be Adriana Vittozzi, Shea Hanson, Julia Howse and Abby Janasiewicz.

Howse, who plays a strong shortstop, had a terrific freshman season in which she was fourth on the team in hits, with 28, to go along with her .475 batting average which was second only to the graduated Tara Driver who left North Reading as the program’s home run leader.

The Hornets open their season on April 8 against Tewksbury at NRHS, but they have had plenty of live game action to prepare.

The Hornets beat Wilmington 11-1 in their first scrimmage on March 24. Howse led the way with three hits and six RBIs, thanks in part to a grand slam inside-the-park homer in the seventh.

DeCleene also had three hits. Pascucci pitched four innings, allowing just two hits and one earned run while striking out four.

Hanson proved she is capable of stepping up in the circle as the sophomore pitched three innings, allowing just one hit while striking out six.

The Hornets welcomed three teams to North Reading for a scrimmage day on Saturday. The Hornets beat Phillips Academy and Wakefield before tying Gloucester 4-4.

Pitching and defense led the Hornets to a strong showing with Pascucci (10 innings pitched, 10 hits, 3 earned runs, 5 strikeouts) and Hanson (7 innings pitched, 7 hits, 1 earned run, 6 strikeouts) both pitching in all three games.

The Hornets were led offensively again by Howse who hit a combined 6-for-7. Emma Lord had three hits and three RBIs on the day.

North Reading certainly has big cleats to fill, but with another roster full of both experienced returners and promising newcomers, the Hornets are once again the team to beat in the Cape Ann League.