MVRHS softball spring preview

Emma Bunker defends first base against John O'Bryant players last season.

A new era begins for the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) softball team, as Samantha Burns takes over the head coaching duties after three years as an assistant to the retired Donald Herman, who coached the team for eight seasons. Danielle Pappas is the assistant coach. Julie Rodenbaugh, David Peek, Martha Scheffer, Samantha Cleland, and Pamela Bunker are volunteers.

Overall, Coach Burns has an athletic team with good chemistry, important attributes for playing in the always tough EAC (Eastern Athletic Conference). To qualify for the state tournament, the Vineyarders will likely have to win the lion’s share of their non-league games. Last year, MV finished with a flourish, but missed the playoffs with an 8-12 record.

“I’m happy at the camaraderie that we have on the field this year,” Coach Burns said. “All the girls seem to get along very well. They have a lot of respect for each other.”

The Vineyard roster has a good mix of veteran players and promising up-and-comers. Senior tri-captains Sam Robinson (pitcher), Cana Courtney (shortstop), and Emma Bunker (first base) should provide strong leadership. Sophomore catcher Summer Cardoza has the arm to keep runners in check on the base paths and the bat to boost the Vineyard offense.

“Our bats are pretty amazing this year,” Coach Burns said. “Summer Cardoza is definitely someone to watch out for. The two freshmen, Emily [Mello] and Tiana [Rambonga], can hit. Cana Courtney is super fast on the bases, and she’s a great hitter.”

The Vineyarders also plan to play small ball and use baserunning savvy to manufacture runs. “We’re going to do a lot of bunting and baserunning,” Coach Burns said. “We have a lot of smart players out here. We’re going to work on being smart on the basepaths, smart in the field, and communicating.”

Defensively, the Vineyarders have a solid group of outfielders, with senior Julia Bettencourt in center field, junior Baylee Francis in left, and junior Alexis Hughes in right.

“We need strong gloves and some speed in the outfield, because EAC teams, especially, have a lot of great bats,” Coach Burns said. Two freshmen will start in the Vineyard infield: Emily Mello is at second base, and Tiana Rambonga will guard the hot corner at third.

With Jessica Sonia graduating last spring, Sam Robinson moves into the No. 1 pitcher’s spot.

Looking at the softball program in the long term, Coach Burns is realistic and hopeful. “I know the next few years will be more of a rebuilding period for the team,” she said. “We don’t have a youth program, so it’s hard to compete in the EAC with the competitive pitchers and kids who have been playing for a long time.

We do have a lot of great athletes here. I have a couple of really great freshmen, and there are a lot of girls who played in the baseball league here, so I hope to see them come up through the ranks soon. We are working on a youth program, and we’re always looking for coaches, players, and anyone interested in playing softball.”