After an off-season of speculation and a two-month search, Blaine high school athletic director Wayne Vezzetti announced on December 17 the hiring of Borderite assistant coach Alisa Burk to replace departed girl’s softball head coach Tim Esposito. Burk, a 2004 Blaine high school graduate, played her college ball at division II Lincoln Memorial University, where she was a fifth-year student-assistant coach, before serving as Esposito’s assistant last season.
“We are excited about Alisa coming on,” Vezzetti said, “she’s played the game at a high level, she has experience and has high expectations.”
Burk’s arrival signals a new era in Borderite softball. After consecutive trips to the 2A state softball tournament, she inherits a young team that lost seven seniors and six starters, including dominant power pitcher Caitlin Dudley.
“I’m very excited about the upcoming season,” Burk said, “I want to bring aspects of the college game to the girls so that they can learn the game and think about it.”
Burk sees the influx of youth as a teaching opportunity.
“My style is different than coach Esposito’s,” Burk explained. “We’re going to move the game, play aggressively and try to bring more excitement to the game.”
The Borderites will hand the ball to sophomore Ashley Bolick, who steps out from behind Dudley’s considerable shadow to be Blaine’s number one pitcher. She has shown increasing power and moves her pitch location well. Bolick got spot starting duty last season and pitching experience in both the district and state playoffs. Moving into the number two role will be freshman Alexis McElwain.
“She has a strong arm and is developing different pitches,” Burk said of McElwain in an e-mail, “She’s a tough girl, and we’re expecting great things from her.”
One of Blaine’s strengths last season was team speed at the top of the order that has suffered from graduations.
“Speed is something we’re always going to be trying to improve on,” Burk said. “There are some pretty fast girls and we plan on using them to benefit the team the best way we can.”
The top returner at the plate will be junior catcher Natalie Sellers. Her strong performance late in the season and in the playoffs will set her as team leader this year. Other returners who will play a larger role are juniors Yvonne Alvarez and Allyssa Southland, who saw only spot duty last season. With so much attrition though, Burk will be looking to new comers like McElwain to perform early.
“Freshman Baylee Foster (has a) pretty good glove on defense,” Burk said. “Nicole Statham is a natural athlete (with) great speed.”
The newness of the team doesn’t daunt the first year coach.
“This is an opportunity for us to build a great team that will be together a few years,” Burk explained. “I don’t feel a lot of pressure to make it to state, however, I don’t believe that the post season is out of the question. I hope to have a successful season and for that to happen, it will take hard work and dedication from the players as well as the coaching staff.”