Loaded lineup has East softball coach liking chances
West Seneca East’s softball team is stocked with battle-tested senior veterans this season, which is something coach Sam Gioia hopes translates into another solid season — one that perhaps ends with a title.
The Lady Trojans lost just three players and return 10 — all but two of whom are seniors — off last year’s squad that went 12-5 overall and reached the sectional semifinal round. Three of those seniors, tri-captains Megan Lewis, Sara Persutti and Corinne Christie, have been members of the varsity team since they were at least freshmen, which adds another layer to the poise, knowledge and ability to execute what each brings to the table.
Lewis, the team’s shortstop and cleanup hitter, is the cagiest of the trio, having been a member of the varsity squad since she was in eighth grade — though she did miss her sophomore season with an injury. Persutti, who is loaded with speed, mans the center of the outfield, while Christie, the team’s “very mobile” first baseman, came up for East’s playoff run her freshman season.
“Megan has a great arm and great range, and she just makes tough plays,” Gioia said. “Sara knows the game really well, can get to the ball quickly and has quick hands. Corinne is one of our most consistent players; she makes great contact at the plate and puts the ball in play virtually every time.”
Senior third baseman Jean Stahl, meanwhile, is the team’s lone returning all-star, as she garnered First Team All-ECIC honors in 2011. The lefty lead-off hitter batted .345 last season, and Gioia is expecting more of the same this spring.
“Jean can find the holes at the plate, which is just such a valuable tool,” Gioia said.
Senior Kelsey Scime will be called on to carry the load on the mound for East this season after going 2-0 in non-league action last year. Freshman Maddy Hillery (third base) will be Scime’s designated hitter and will also serve as the squad’s second pitcher when called to do so.
“Kelsey’s got good command with her pitches; she gets outs,” Gioia said. “She’s going to be counted on to pitch a lot of games for us. Maddy’s a good pitcher too; she throws hard for her age.”
Rounding out the team’s contingent of returning seniors are outfielders Bailee Gallivan, Bria Scagnelli and Patti Sitarski. Junior Alyssa Gates (catcher) and sophomore Gabby Lewis (second base) are the team’s only returning underclassmen.
“Bailee is one of the fastest girls at East; she can run any ball down and really just take away any of the gaps in the outfield,” Gioia said. “Bria’s going to jump in and try to score runs with her speed on the bases, and Patti’s just really good at reading the fly balls well. Alyssa’s going to throw out a lot of runners, and she’s also a good contact hitter. Gabby’s got a strong arm and should turn a lot of double plays with her sister, actually.”
Closing out the 2012 roster are varsity newcomers Beth Kupka (junior outfield) and Erin Barrett (freshman right fielder).
“Beth just wants to help the team however she possibly can,” Gioia said. “Erin’s probably got one of the strongest arms I’ve ever seen, which should hopefully help us out defensively. As a team, our defense is one of the strongest I’ve ever had. Our infield is unbelievable — I can’t see anyone scoring on us if they’re hitting grounders — and our outfielders are all quick and they all have good arms.”
Early efforts by the team have justified Gioia’s optimism, as the Lady Trojans defeated both Iroquois on April 2 (8-2) and Williamsville South on April 3 (4-1) to jump out to a 2-0 start. A four-run seventh inning put the game against Iroquois out of reach and proved to be especially critical once Iroquois loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning. East got out of that jam — despite producing a passed ball with the bases loaded — to start its season off on the right foot.
Scime threw a complete-game five hitter to earn the win on the mound, while Megan Lewis paced East offensively by going 3-for-3 with a double, an RBI and two runs scored. Stahl went 3-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored, while Gates finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored.
Another four-run outburst proved to be critical for East against South. East drew two walks to start the fifth inning, and Megan Lewis blasted a two-run triple a few batters later to do a big chunk of the damage. She would later score on a wild pitch.
South did manage to get runners in scoring position after that, but couldn’t push any additional runners across the plate.
“That was a big game for us, not just because it was our last one before break, but because South was the team that ended our season last year,” Gioia said. “It’s definitely a nice feeling going into break with a 2-0 record.”
Scime again earned the win on the mound, tossing a five hitter with one walk. East, which conversely drew eight walks for the game, was paced offensively by Stahl’s 2-for-3 effort (double).
East returns to action Tuesday by traveling to Williamsville East, ending a 14-day layoff. The Lady Trojans will then host Lake Shore the next afternoon.
“We know our game will be solid defensively, so we just need to work at putting the ball in play consistently,” Gioia said. “We can’t leave girls stranded on base; we need to make the most of every opportunity we get. If we can get a couple of runs early, I know it’s going to be hard for anyone to overtake us.”
|4-17||at Williamsville East||4:45 p.m.|
|4-18||Lake Shore||4:30 p.m.|
|4-20||at Starpoint||4:45 p.m.|
|4-23||at Hamburg||4:45 p.m.|
|4-24||Mt. Mercy (at Fireman’s Park)||5 p.m.|
|4-24||Jamestown (at Fireman’s||Park) 7 p.m.|
|4-28||at Depew Tournament||9:30 a.m.|
|4-30||at Williamsville South||4:45 p.m.|
|5-2||Williamsville East||4:45 p.m.|
|5-3||at Clarence||4:45 p.m.|
|5-15||West Seneca West||4 p.m.|
** Schedule subject to change due to unforeseen circumstances. For up-to-the-minute information, visit www.wscschools.org/athletics. cfm or call the Athletics Department at 677-3141.