These local softball players are making an impact at area colleges

With the local college softball teams getting underway, Jennifer Toland took a look at some of the area stars to keep an eye on this season.

Fitchburg State University catcher Kiara Bigeau of Clinton.
Fitchburg State University catcher Kiara Bigeau of Clinton.

Kiara Bigeau (Fitchburg State/Clinton)

Sophomore, catcher

Veteran coach Dick Hurley took over the Falcons program in December, and he had to get to know his team quickly. Hurley was immediately impressed with Bigeau.

“She’s just an all-around student-athlete,” Hurley said. “She’s the type of person I would go out and recruit.”

Bigeau, who was a Mid-Wach D all-star at Clinton, batted .273 in limited at-bats her rookie season at Fitchburg State. She’s hitting .286 with three RBIs this spring.

The Falcons struggled to a 1-8 mark on a difficult southern swing, but Bigeau came up big in the one victory.

In the bottom of the eighth inning against Stevenson, she drove in the tying run with a bomb double to left field, and scored the winning run on a fielder’s choice.

“She’s clutch,” Hurley said, “and she really helped us win that game. Now that we’re coming into pitching we should be able to handle a lot better, we should see her batting average going up.”

Bigeau has done a fine job, Hurley said, handling Fitchburg State’s pitching staff, which includes two sophomores and a freshman.

“She does a real nice job behind the plate,” Hurley said. “She takes control. She’s a leader. She’s only a sophomore, but I anticipate in a year or so she’ll be a captain-type player.”

Anna Maria's Rory Hughes is about to unleash on a pitch.
Anna Maria's Rory Hughes is about to unleash on a pitch.

Rory Hughes (Anna Maria/Worcester/St. Paul)

Sophomore, outfielder

Paige Stewart (Anna Maria/Auburn)

Freshman, outfielder

It is evident, Anna Maria coach Larry Sasso said, that Hughes and Stewart played for strong Central Mass. high school programs.

“The fundamentals of the game that they both have,” Sasso said, “helps them bring so much more to the table.”

Hughes, in center field, and Stewart, in left, have excelled defensively for the AmCats this spring.

Anna Maria softball player Paige Stewart.
Anna Maria softball player Paige Stewart.

“They both have a lot of upside,” Sasso said. “Defensively, from center field to the left side of the outfield they have done better than I ever expected at this stage of their career.”

Stewart has one RBI, and she has scored two runs. Hughes drove in a run in each of the AmCats’ victories in Florida.

“They are hard workers,” Sasso said, “with a lot of raw talent. The foundation they bring from Auburn High and St. Paul has really helped them acclimate and get on the field every day. They bring consistency in the outfield, and for them to find a starting role on this team is really impressive.”

Worcester State's Rachel Sinclair.
Worcester State's Rachel Sinclair.

Rachel Sinclair (Worcester State/Westminster/Oakmont Regional)

Junior, third base

A focus coming into the 2023 season for the Lancers was offense and run production.

Through 14 games, Worcester State is batting .350, and the Lancers are averaging 6.42 runs. Both of those numbers are up from last season, when Worcester State hit .289 and averaged 4.35 runs in its 39 games.

“Rachel is really contributing to that improvement,” Worcester State coach Keri Bianchini said.

Sinclair, who was a Mid-Wach C all-star at Oakmont Regional, is batting .417 with seven RBIs and eight runs scored.

“She can hit for power,” Bianchini said, “but her strength is in her consistency, with base hits and line drives, and she is a great base runner who makes a lot of heads-up plays. When she’s on base, we have a lot of confidence in her to take some extra bases, legging doubles out of singles, things like that.”

Sinclair, who has had five multi-hit games this season, is also excellent at third base. Sinclair, a team captain, is president of the MASCAC SAAC.

“She has definitely stepped up in a lot of ways on the field and off the field,” Bianchini said. “She is a strong voice. Her teammates really look to her for guidance and leadership. I really appreciate her as a captain and as a player.”

Assumption's Anna Tassone.
Assumption's Anna Tassone.

Anna Tassone (Assumption/Gardner/Winchendon School)

Sophomore, pitcher

For the second straight season, Tassone is a key member of Assumption’s pitching staff.

As a freshman, Tassone went 6-5 with a 2.51 ERA. This spring, the lefty spinner, who has made nine appearances and five starts, is 2-1 with a team-best 2.10 ERA.

Tassone is holding opposing batters to a .253 average.

“She throws people off balance,” first-year Assumption coach Stacey Mayer said. “She gives batters a very different look. She hits her spots and paints the corners.”

Tassone helped the Greyhounds win seven of 12 games on their Florida swing. She allowed one run and struck out a season-high five while earning the victory against Gannon on March 2.

Before starring for and captaining her Winchendon team, Tassone was a Mid-Wach C all-star at Gardner. In 2018, she ranked among the top hitters in Central Mass. with a .559 average.

“She is probably the hardest-working kid on the team,” Mayer said. “We are very excited that we have her, and we are definitely anticipating a very successful year for her because of that hard work.”

WPI's Sophia Togneri delivers a pitch for the Engineers.
WPI's Sophia Togneri delivers a pitch for the Engineers.

Sophia Togneri (WPI/Hudson)

Senior, Pitcher

In WPI’s 10-0 win over Eastern Connecticut State on Sunday, Togneri “owned the mound,” Engineers coach Heather Ross said, in her best outing so far of the season.

Togneri held Eastern Connecticut to two hits and threw just 69 pitches.

“She just stuck to game plan, executed her pitches, hit her locations and did everything that she needed to do,” Ross said. “It was the confidence booster that she needed as we go into (NEWMAC) play.”

Togneri, who was a two-time T&G Super Team selection at Hudson and led the Hawks to the 2019 Division 2 state championship, lost most of her first two college seasons to COVID ramifications.

Last year, while backing up ace Katie Martin, Togneri went 4-4 with 2 saves and a 3.19 ERA. She struck out 39 and walked 12 in 41⅔ innings while helping the Engineers to a historic season and the NCAA Division 3 World Series.

This season, the lefty is WPI’s No. 1 pitcher, and she has made a team-high nine starts. Togneri is 3-5 with a 3.41 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 39⅓ innings.

“It’s her time to shine,” Ross said. “She has put in the work throughout her entire career, and I’m excited for her to really own that starting role in her senior year. She’s really taken on a leadership role on our young pitching staff, and not just putting in the work herself, but helping our younger pitchers and having a vocal presence in the bullpens.

“She’s enjoying the moment,” Ross said, “and doing a lot of really good things for us.”

—Contact Jennifer Toland at Follow her on Twitter @JenTolandTG.

This article originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: These local softball players are making an impact at area colleges