Cooperstown softball had a historic year in 2013, with its first division championship, an undefeated regular season and a Section Three Class C-1 title.
After losing five starters to graduation, including Daily Star softball Player of the Year Nicole Cring, the Hawkeyes were expected to have some growing pains in 2014. Midway through the season, however, expectations have changed.
“We have a real good young team,” coach Dave Bliss said. “We’re improving every game. If we can stay focused and stay injury free, we’re going to be all right. Overall we are doing very well.”
Cooperstown has just one loss going into last night’s division showdown at Herkimer. At 11-1, 6-1, CCS needed a win over the Magicians to take the lead in the Center State Conference Division II. The Hawkeyes only loss this year came to Herkimer, 3-0, in eight innings on April 10. Since then Cooperstown has swept Little Falls, including a 10-inning 1-0 victory at home on Friday.
“We beat Herkimer in the (C-1) finals last year, 2-1,” Bliss said. “They return eight starters and we only return four, but we lost to them in extra innings.”
Freshman Maria Noto has taken over for Cring, a transition that has been seamless. Noto has already come close to a perfect game, pitched a five-inning no-hitter against Hoosick Falls and set a CCS single game record for strikeouts with 20 in the loss to Herkimer.
As the fourth CCS pitcher to train with volunteer coach Tom Weeks, Noto’s success isn’t surprising to Bliss.
“She’s been working with Coach Weeks for a while, so we kind of expected it,” Bliss said. “Maria has been doing an outstanding job. She has excellent control. For a freshman, she throws a high number of strikeouts.”
Cring – who is now pitching at Springfield College – pitched for CCS for two seasons and continued a new school tradition of breaking most of the records of the girl who stood in the circle before her. Anna Sams and Ariel Baker were the other pitchers Weeks has trained.