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Apr. 28—There is no local New Hampshire team with as much returning talent as the Salem softball team.

After missing a year due to the COVID pandemic, the return of six starters from a 13-6 team back in 2019 is a godsend for sure.

But, the mark of a good team is often how seamlessly that newcomers can assimilate with the returnees and inject new blood into the program. And, in the case of Salem, it’s been remarkably smooth.

Center fielder Sydney Emerson, catcher Brie Boucher and outfielder Madison Burns are among the veterans who have the Blue Devils off to a 5-0 start. But it’s three freshmen — third baseman Emerson Poulin, shortstop Addison Lucier and outfielder Jennifer Olson — who have folks buzzing.

And with good reason.

In addition to manning the all-important left side of the infield, Poulin and Lucier have been immense at the plate.

After five games, Poulin is batting ..687 ( 11 of 16) and has scored 11 runs, Lucier is hitting .533 (8 0f 15) with 11 RBIs and Olson is hitting .461 (6 of 13) with nine runs scored as the team’s leadoff hitter.

Second-year coach Haley Chandler is thrilled with her rookies, who bat first, third and fourth in the batting order,

“Jenny is our leadoff (hitter) and has an excellent hitting IQ,” said Chandler. “She’s able to read the defense and then slap for power, placement, or bunt. Her speed is also huge for us in the bases and in the outfield.

“Emerson offers power at the plate, She can hit a ball anywhere it is thrown, and she will hit it hard. She’s an extremely hard worker and can play numerous positions defensively.

“Addie offers consistent offense. She hits the ball very hard from the left side and hustles so matter what. Defensively, she’s our shortstop. Her arm is very strong so even if she bobbles the ball, she’s still able to throw a runner out.

“I’m absolutely thrilled that I get to have them for four years. They all know the game very well.”

All three freshmen have a bundle of quality experience. They played on the 2019 Woodbury School team that won the Tri-County championship and they play in the offseason for the Polar Crush.

And yet, oddly, none of them took it for granted that they would be making the varsity, much less starting and being key contributors.

“I was just hoping to make varsity and it was a big surprise when I did — I was really excited about it,” said Olson, whose older sister Allison, a senior, also starts for the Blue Devils.

Said Poulin: “That was my goal — to make varsity — but I was surprised when I made it. We have a lot of strong upperclassmen.”

And Lucier feels the same way and, like the others, is loving the experience of being on the varsity.

“I can’t even express how much fun it’s been,” said Lucier, who made a great defensive play to end Monday’s 7-3 win over Exeter. “Everyone has been so welcoming and is always encouraging each other.”

All three freshmen are multi-sport athletes at Salem and were in the basketball program together during the winter, but there is no question about their No. 1 passion. When asked which was their favorite sport, they all said the exact thing — “Softball is my favorite.”

Which is good news for Chandler and the rest of the Blue Devils, who are loving the new blood injected into the program.


Productive freshmen

After five games, Poulin is batting ..687 ( 11 of 16) and has scored 11 runs, Lucier is hitting .533 (8 0f 15) with 11 RBIs and Olson is hitting .461 (6 of 13) with nine runs scored as the team’s leadoff hitter.


Ball-playing genes

All three of Salem’s freshman starters have parents who played baseball or softball.

Olson’s dad, Mark, played baseball at Salem, Lucier’s dad, Matthew, played baseball at St. John’s Prep and her mom played softball in high school in Ohio and at St. John’s University and Poulin’s mom played softball at Presentation of Mary.