Lady Bulldogs core four leading the way

By Kathryn Elliott - ReminderNews
Stafford - posted Fri., May. 20, 2011
Stafford pitcher Jessica Simpson fires a pitch in a game against Ellington. Photos by Kathryn Elliott.
Stafford pitcher Jessica Simpson fires a pitch in a game against Ellington. Photos by Kathryn Elliott.

Out of uniform, it would be easy to mistake the Stafford High School Lady Bulldogs softball team for an exceptionally large and equally loud family. Replacing the mini-van with a yellow school bus, the girls’ arrived on May 12 ready to take on league powerhouse Ellington.

“Hustle up,” coach Steve Budaj said. “On your toes. Get out there and show them what you’ve got!” Filled with pride in all his players, Budaj is back at SHS for his 14th season with the team. “My ultimate goal for the team this year is to make it to the state tournament and advance farther than we did in 2010. We have a great group of girls and we should do well,” he said.

At 9-7, the Lady Bulldogs are in the hunt for the playoffs, due in large to contributions from the team’s core four: Emilie Peirolo, Tori Utter, Dani Clark and Jody Buckley.

“Coach has a saying,” junior catcher Emilie Peirolo stated. “‘Teamwork wins the game.’ He’s right.” Budaj described Peirolo as an intense competitor with tremendous talent. Carrying a .483 batting average, she has five home runs, 24 RBIs and 18 runs scored.

Protecting third base, junior Tori Utter has an impressive .321 batting average, 12 runs scored and 15 RBIs. “Tori is the coach on the field,” Budaj said. “She knows what coverages to call, where the ball needs to be thrown at all times and is great leading the younger players.”

Centerfielder Dani Clark has a .327 batting average, two triples and 14 runs scored. “Dani is the complete athlete,” Budaj said. “She’s captain of three varsity teams - soccer, basketball and softball.” When asked what coaching wisdom most resonated with her, Clark summed up Budaj’s approach to the game. “Never take any team for granted, and never give up,” she said.

Rounding out the core four is the team’s sole senior, pitcher Jody Buckley. “Coach always says play with heart; that’s the best advice we could get,” she said.

A complete schedule can be found at


Coach’s Corner-

Stafford High School Softball Head Coach Steve Budaj

Number of season with this team:  14

Assistant Coach: Don Bradway

Senior: Jody Buckley


Spotlight Player-

Jody Buckley - Senior/Pitcher: Watching from the dugout for most the season, Buckley’s enthusiasm never dwindled. After Buckley was out with a torn ACL for the first five games, followed by appendicitis, Budaj is looking forward to having her back in the lineup. “Jody is like a daughter to me,” he said. “I had her for four years in soccer and softball, and she has grown into a dominant player in softball who will attend Mitchell College on a scholarship. She’s just about ready to come back - fingers crossed. We miss her.”

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