Craftsbury Softball Loaded with Numbers this Season

photo by Vanessa Fournier
Catcher Sarah Collier (left) of Hazen Union and Caitlyn Cloutier (right) of Hazen Union get ready to practice in the World War II gymnasium at Craftsbury Academy, April 12. Watching are Manager Ameila Eagan (back left) and player Savanah Boyce (second from back left), both of Craftsbury.

CRAFTSBURY – The Craftsbury Academy (CA) softball program has reason for optimism this spring, fielding its largest team in recent memory after adding players from both Hazen Union and Peoples Academy (PA).

Head coach Ashley Gravel enters her sixth year at the helm and will open the season later this week with 20-strong, thanks to a three-year agreement of merging athletic programs with Hazen Union and adding an additional five players from PA.

Gravel helped resurrect the Lady Charger program as a club sport in 2019 after over a decade of dormancy, leading them to their first varsity playoff win in nearly 20 years in 2022. CA finished 5-10 a season ago, falling to Long Trail in the first round of the Division IV playoffs, but played its best ball late in the season, winning three out of their last four games. She lost five special seniors to graduation who helped rebuild the program, but with a talented returning core coupled with key additions from neighboring programs, there is a buzz of excitement heading into their season opener.

photo by Vanessa Fournier
Kaileigh Mason of Peoples practices batting during practice Friday at Craftsbury Academy. Six players each from Hazen and Peoples have merged with Craftsbury’s eight players to form a softball team under Craftsbury head coach Ashley Gravel and assistant coach Joel Vandyk. Their first game is scheduled for April 19 at 4:30 p.m., at Blue Mountain.

“It was tough saying goodbye to a special group of seniors who had been with me since eighth graders. They all felt like my own kids, and we couldn’t have accomplished what we did without them. Having such a large group this season brings its own challenges of meshing everyone together to create one team, but this is a great group of girls, and you’d think they’ve been friends for years watching them practice together. They are all working hard and on the same page of putting the best team out there to help the program be successful at CA. It doesn’t matter to me what school you come from, if you are showing up to practice and performing consistently, you’re going to play. The multiyear agreement between CA and Hazen, as well as the addition of PA players is good for the future of the program. This season feels brand new to me and I’m excited to coach this team along with assistant coach Joel Vandyke,” said Gravel.

Savannah Boyce, Sadie Skorstad, and Haley Smith all earned Mountain League honors last season and return to the program along with Adelina Augsberger, Sophia Augsberger and Erin Cochran. Boyce will be the workhorse in the circle for a second straight year, Skorstad will man second base, and Cochran and Augsberger will start in the outfield, along with CA’s talented eighth grader Kyra Ingalls. Hazen’s Sarah Collier will take over starting catching duties for Gravel and fellow Lady Cat Gracie Crown will start at third. PA’s Emily Hoffman and Kaileigh Mason round out the starting lineup at shortstop and first base. Smith, Hoffman, and Hazen’s Serenity Leach will round out the depth of the pitching staff for the Lady Chargers this spring.

“This group of girls have worked hard in the gym so far and shown a great commitment to the team. Building relationships through sport has always been important to me, and this year these girls have the opportunity to build bonds and friendships from three different schools and I’m excited to watch those bonds grow throughout the season. We’re excited to get outside and get the season started,” said Gravel.

The Lady Chargers are scheduled to open the season on the road Friday against Blue Mountain.

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