Stafford Bulldogs softball team comes out swinging
By Kathryn Elliott - ReminderNews
Stafford - posted Thu., Apr. 5, 2012
In 1997, Bill Clinton was in the White House, Puff Daddy topped the charts and Steve Budaj signed on as the Stafford High School varsity softball coach. Fifteen years later, his “play with heart” philosophy remains the first lesson new players learn.
Finishing 2011 with a trip to the semi-final round of the Class S state tournament – ending in a 5-2 loss to Hale-Ray – the Bulldogs have their sights set on surpassing last season. “We are looking to return to the tournament and get into the NCCC tournament for the first time,” Budaj said. “Scoring runs will be difficult in a very strong, pitcher-heavy NCCC.”
According to Budaj, veteran players will play a critical role in the team’s strength and overall success. After graduating one senior in 2011, pitcher Jody Buckley, the core of the Bulldogs lineup remains intact, including senior captains Emilie Peirolo, catcher; Dani Clark, centerfield; Jessica Simpson, pitcher; and Tori Utter, third base.
Citing Suffield, Ellington, Granby and Somers as challenging competition, Budaj will call on assistant coaches Don Bradway and Kim Soucy for help on the bench.
Soucy, back for her 14th season as JV coach, commented on the new talent joining Stafford’s program. “We have a very small squad  of mostly freshman girls. It will be important for everyone to be able to make every game,” she said. “Our goal will be to maintain that group of 10 throughout the season without any injuries.”
When asked for players to watch this year, Soucy singled out Onie Tumell and Heather Dolby. “I am very impressed with my freshmen combo; pitcher Onie, and catcher Heather,” Soucy said. “Although the squad is small, it looks to be a good season and we should be able to win a good amount of games.”
The Bulldogs come up against Avon on April 13, on the new Stafford softball field located behind the high school. A full schedule can be found at www.casciac.org.