St. Vincent Pallotti outfielder Tylar Fountain, third baseman Francesca Giuliani and shortstop Imani Torregano are ready to lead the Panthers to a winning season. (photo by Nate Pesce / March 26, 2014)

With 18 players, Pallotti's softball squad will have many opposing teams outnumbered this year. Whether the Panthers will outscore them is another matter.

Pallotti’s biggest question mark coming into the season seems to be hitting consistency.

The team batted nearly .250 last season, and coach Katie Grenchik thinks the Panthers have room to grow with seven returning starters from a team that went 5-7 overall and 5-5 in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland C Conference.

“I really want to improve our hitting,” said Grenchik, a second-year coach. “And I think we will. We want to get more people on base, and I have four or five girls that are comfortable bunting to make that happen.”

Pallotti returns its three best hitters — leadoff batter and junior shortstop Imani Torregano, cleanup hitter and junior third baseman Francesca Guiliani and second-place hitter and sophomore second baseman/pitcher Kiley Sweeney 

The offense also should get a boost from two promising freshmen: pitcher/third baseman Isabela Correa and catcher shortstop Skylar Johnson.

“They will be awesome players,” Grenchik said. “Isabella will bat third, fourth or fifth. She is one of our strongest hitters. Skylar is super fast, and she will be good at the top of our lineup.”

Pallotti appears to have pitching depth in Correa, Torregano and Sweeney.

“The main thing is, I want to have multiple pitchers so I don’t wear any of them out,” Grenchik explained. “If one of them looks tired, we will switch them out.”

Grenchik will ease Correa into her pitching rotation.

“She went to St. Mary’s for grade school and played on the CYO team there,” Grenchik said. “She also played on some Laurel girls and boys club teams. But I will be working with her to develop her pitching more.”

Torregano pitched for the first time last year.

“We tried her out and she was great,” Grenchik said. “Imani has this consistency to her. Nothing will really bother her. Even if she has walked three people in a row, she will come back and strike the next batter out. She just keeps battling.”

Grenchik also likes the potential of sophomore Sweeney. “Kiley is probably the fastest of our pitchers,” she said.

The defense appears solid.

Besides Torregano (SS), Guiliani (3B) and Sweeney (2B), the Panthers return seniors Rachael Roland (LF), Brooke Weldon (1B), Tylar Fountain (RF) and sophomore Rebecca Proctor (C) to the starting lineup.

Juniors Kaylene Kesinger, a transfer from Texas, and Kimberly Rodriguez, a returning varsity player, will alternate in center field.

Johnson will also handle some of the catching duties, and junior Kayla Bohorfoush is slated to see some time at second.

“I think our defense will be great,” Grenchik said. “The girls are working really well together. They have done so well in our scrimmages.”

Grenchik, a Pallotti graduate, believes her team has the ingredients to take another step forward after the Panthers improved from three to five wins last season.

“I think we will be tough for other teams in the C Conference,” she said. “We have a good core of three pitchers, two awesome catchers, a solid infield and 18 girls to work with. 

“If someone is not doing so great, I have another player right behind her ready to step up and to take her place,” she added.

Among the reserves who will also be available off the bench are sophomores Thayan Grammont (OF/1B), Sydney Simmons (2B/OF) and Alaiya Williams (OF) and freshmen Maggie Bunge (OF), Emma Campbell (2B/1B) and Kaitelyn Klukosky (2B/SS).