New-look Brakettes open season Friday

The Stratford Brakettes open their 69th consecutive season of women’s major fastpitch play Friday night at Frank DeLuca Hall of Fame Field with a 7 p.m. doubleheader against the Queens, N.Y., Lady Rangers.

The Brakettes will also be home Saturday night at 7 and Sunday morning at 11 a.m. in a pair of twin-bills against the Lyons, PA,, Spirit.

Manager John Stratton enters his 21st consecutive season at the helm of the Brakettes, who have won 32 National championships since 1947, including five straight Women’s Major Softball titles.

Last year’s team finished with a 50-4 overall record, but only six members of that squad return.

“We are facing the highest turnover of the roster in many years,” said Stratton, whose last five teams have a combined 311-8 overall record. “We suffered an unexpected player loss last weekend when two-year pitching standout Allyson Fournier signed a pro contract with the Pennsylvania Rebellion.”

Losing Fournier is a big blow, but the team still has one of the finest Brakettes pitchers of all time in 6-foot-2 right-hander Brandice Balschmiter, who begins her ninth season with the team.

Balschmiter has been nothing short of dominant since she returned from a two-year stint in the National Pro Fastpitch League in 2010. She is 79-2 during that span.

Last year Balschmiter, who hails from Newark, N.Y., compiled a 15-0 record with a 0.58 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 85 innings of work.

While Stratton has begun a search for a replacement, he has two other top pitchers on the roster, including Monroe’s Tatum Buckley, who recently finished a fine freshman season at Florida Atlantic University where she was 3-2 on the mound with a 1.36 ERA.

She started all but one of the Owls’ 54 games in a 37-17 season for legendary Brakettes pitcher Joan Joyce.

Newcomer Laura Riccardone, a 5-foot-10 righty from Slidell, LA, makes her debut after finishing career at Harvard University.

She comes to the team highly-recommended by long-time Brakettes second baseman Ashley Waters, the assistant coach of the Crimson.

Buckley, who succeeded Waters at second base, hit .319 and drove in 26 runs last year and she was 8-0 on the mound with a 0.30 ERA and 64 K’s in 47 innings.

Offensively, the Brakettes will rely upon all-time home run queen Denise Denis of Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

A regular with the ballclub since 2005, Denis surpassed Pat Dufficy for the career home run lead last summer and now has 93. Denis hit 16 home runs, drove in 56 runs, and led the club with a .488 batting average.

Catcher Elena Bowman of Manhattan College starts her second year behind the plate for the Brakettes.

Bowman finished with a.407 batting average, seven home runs, and 37 RBIs in her rookie campaign. She also handled the bulk of the catching chores.

Also back from last year’s club is veteran player-coach Amber Radomski of Easton.

Radomski had a solid season with a .393 verage, four home runs and 23 RBIs, playing both third base and first base.

Shelton’s Brittany Lampert (.356) of Shelton and Concordia, N.Y, College, is back for her third year, and Tufts’ University first baseman Cassie Ruscz (.250, 11 RBIs in 18 games) are the other returnees.

The Brakettes have several marque events on their schedule, highlighted by the June 14 exhibition game against the Bridgeport Bluefish at the Ballpark at Harbor Yard.

That game begins at 7:05 p.m. and the Brakettes will be selling tickets this weekend for that event.

Also, the Canadian National team visits DeLuca Field June 25-27 for six games. They are the World’s third-ranked team behind the USA and Japan.

The Brakettes continue their policy of admitting all youth league teams and their coaches for free.

Teams interested in having a special night at DeLuca Field should contact the Brakettes team office at 203-378-7262 or via e-mail, [email protected]

Gates to DeLuca Field open one hour before every scheduled home doubleheader.

Season passes will be on sale throughout the weekend and the Coastal Cordsmen will be on hand to sing the national anthem Friday night.

All Brakettes games are video webcast throughout the season by going to the team’s website and clicking on the link for the game.

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