Experienced Rome Free Academy softball team begins 2022 campaign today
The Rome Free Academy softball team has virtually its entire starting lineup from last season back, including senior pitcher Laina Beer, who missed a significant part of last season due to illness.
The Black Knights open the season at 12:30 this afternoon at home at Kost Field hosting non-league opponent Central Square.
Last season, RFA was 6-8 and ended the season with a loss to Baldwinsville in the Section III Class AA quarterfinals.
Gone are last year’s home run leader, Lily Ferucci, who is playing now at Herkimer College, as well as second baseman Syerra Vedder and outfielder Carly Boardman.
Head coach Jerry Closinski is in his second year leading the program. (He was supposed to take over in 2020 but COVID-19 wiped out the season.)
The coach doesn’t have to look far for one of the core parts of the team: his daughter, senior shortstop Maggie Closinski, a Tri-Valley League first team all-star last season. “She’s a big part in the middle of the field and middle of the lineup,” he said.
The team also welcomes back senior catcher Lauren Dorfman, a top player in the league who missed all of last season with an injury. Pair her with Beer in the circle and the team gets back two top veteran contributors who missed most or all of the 2021 campaign. “That’s going to be huge,” the coach said.
“Our starting nine is basically all returners,” Closinski said. There’s defensive standout Juliana Huckbone, a senior, in centerfield. Senior Kelly O’Neil will be in right field and junior Morgan Bruno will be in left and can play second base too. Senior Adrianna Varano is back at third base. Last year Alexa Thompson started behind the plate as an eighth grader with Dorfman out. Now she’s a freshman who will start at second base. She is, the coach said, “having a great preseason so we’re confident she can fill those shoes.” Junior Shea Larkin, who got more innings in the circle last year than expected when Beer was out, will play a lot at first base this season but will also pitch to give Beer some rest.
“Defensively we’re going to be really good unless something crazy happens,” Closinski said.
Three players are new to varsity. Eighth grader Kennedy Campbell, an outfielder, came up late in the season for a few games last year. She will get playing time “based on her speed alone,” the coach said. She’s also turned around to the left side in the batter’s box to become a slap hitter, where she can take advantage of her speed, he noted. Sophomore outfielder Mary Barrett and freshman first baseman-outfielder Kate Platis are also getting their first taste of varsity softball this season.
“Last year we were counting on three or four kids to get us the runs we needed,” Closinski said. “With so few strikeouts from the pitching, it put pressure on the offense.” Now, with Beer back, the team should get seven to 10 strikeouts a game from her, the coach estimated. “The way they handle the bat, if we score four or five runs we should win basically every game.” He added: “Our six seniors, this is what they do.” They hit for power, but can also manufacture runs and steal bases. It won’t be easy though, he noted, as “Everybody in our league returns their pitcher.”
“All of our really good players are seniors. Everybody can play but as you get older you get stronger too,” Closinski said. “Our seniors are going to carry us, no question about it.” They’ve been playing together since age eight on travel teams. “We really feel like we have a good group. And they’re good kids. I think we have four of the top 10 averages and Lauren’s the valedictorian.”
The league will be tough, as always, the coach said. “There’s really no easy out.” Whitesboro has virtually everyone back from last season, as does New Hartford. “Camden’s the same team. Oneida and (coach) Mike Curro basically has the same team,” he said of the two teams with the best records in the TVL last season. “It should be fun. There’s no gimmies. Should be a good league this year, which helps us because we have to go play in Sectionals and play the big schools.” With a tough league and strong non-league schedule, “we should be a little more prepared than in recent years.”
Regardless, he said, “I like our chances every time we go out there.”
Here is a look around at some of the other local softball programs:
The Blue Devils were 17-3 last season (a school record for wins) and open April 18 hosting Utica Notre Dame. Head coach Jed Musch said the team’s biggest loss from last season is third baseman Holland Hawkes, who batted .400 last season. Back are the other eight starters. The team is led by sophomore center fielder Brooke Musch (batted .610 and was an all-state selection), senior shortstop Jadyn Preivo (.400 average, TVL all-star) and junior catcher Kaitlyn Findley (.380, TVL honorable mention).
“I expect to be competing for another TVL title,” the coach said. “We took a share of the TVL title last year with Oneida. Sectional play will be new for us as we are a Class A school and will play a different sectional schedule than last season. We made it to the Class B semifinals last season and lost to the sectional champs.” He added: “I do expect us to make a deep run in sectional play.”
Central Valley Academy
The Thunder went 8-10 last season. The team is 1-1 this season and travels to Camden April 19. The team lost Rachael Yardley to graduation (she’s playing softball at Mohawk Valley Community College now), as well as Lexi Rando and Alexis Upson. Head coach Brian Lasowski pointed to five key returning players: seniors Madison Obreza (pitcher), Rebecka Brewer (infield-outfield) and Amadia Howard (outfield); junior Morgan Russo (catcher-infield); and sophomores Kaylee Beam (pitcher-infield), Scout Ludwig (catcher-infield) and Bella Kleban (outfield). Five newcomers should also contribute: juniors Grace Scanlon (infield), Payton Lynch (outfield), Peyton Hoffman (catcher-infield), Brooke Burns (outfield) and Elanah Elthorp (infield).
The coach said the team has solid pitchers in Obreza and Beam. “As a team, we need to make the routine plays in the field and have less errors as well. Offensively, we need to limit our strikeouts and generate hits and runs at the plate. If we can do this we will be competitive in a very difficult TVL.”
The Warriors were 2-14 last season but are already 1-1 this season and will host Holland Patent April 20. The team graduated five senior starters including all-star outfielder Lindsey Dunda. Back are all-star senior shortsop Sydney Labayewski, all-star junior pitcher Chloe Hynes, all-star junior catcher Deanna Heintz.
Head coach Elaine Hogan said: “Our goals are to continue to rebuild this program and get some more experience at positions as well as to look to the playing experience of the returners and learn from them. We will rely on the leadership of the two seniors especially.” A few years ago was the first year bringing back the program. “We are hoping to gain more experience and grow as a team and work together to get better each practice and game. Our focus will be fundamentals and teamwork.”
The Golden Knights were 15-1 last season and started this season 2-0. They were scheduled to play at Adirondack Friday. The team lost three top players from last season — Anna Healey, Taylor Koenig and Natalie Yutzler. The team, now with co-head coaches Ashely Rose and Skylar Kaelin in charge, gets several key players back this season — Hannah Rossi, Emery Crossley, Maggie Cummings, Michaela Cushman and Terra McLaughlin. New to varsity but expected to make in immediate impact are Stephanie Grocholski and Arianna Williams, Rose said.
“We are focusing on the mental game that softball is in order to be successful for the entirety of the season. Physical errors will happen at times, but mental errors are inexcusable,” Rose said. “Our schedule has some different competition this year as we head into the TVL next year, and we are excited to get going.”
The team is coming off another deep postseason run, a 15-4 campaign that ended with a loss in the Section III Class B title game. They opened this season Friday hosting Cicero-North Syracuse. The team lost cleanup hitter Sydney Lusher to graduation but the starting lineup that ended last season with Lusher hurt is back in its entirety. Senior shortstop Kaylin Curro has committed to Division I Binghamton University. There’s also seniors Olivia Friend at third; senior outfielders Grace Davis, Mikah Albro and Jillian Honness; junior pitcher Kerrigan Crysler and senior first baseman Carly Uhlig; sophomores Julianna Caroli (first base), Vanessa Babcock (second base) and Bri Molter (utility) and eighth grader Kennedy Curro (catcher).
Head coach Mike Curro said the team’s goal is “to play one pitch at a time and develop skills and knowledge during season, and make a run for a title.”
The team was 9-6 last season and opens this year hosting Utica Notre Dame April 18. The team had two seniors last year, Center State Conference Division III first team all-star catcher Phelan Shannon, who batted .509 and led the team with 26 RBIs and second team all-star Cara Waterman, who batted .317. Back this season to lead the team are the two pitchers — junior Juliette Tagliaferri and senior Jordyn Carlo. Tagliaferrri pitched 72 innings, went 5-5 and had a 2.75 ERA. Carlo pitched 26 innings going 4-1 with a 2.40 ERA. Carlo led the team with a .574 average last year and had an on base percentage of .660. Tagliaferri batted .469 and had an on base percentage of .531 as the leadoff hitter.
The team returns 11 players with varsity experience, including seven starters. Head coach Mike Reilly said: “We expect to be solid defensively. Senior Ashley Reid returns as a three-year starter at shortstop. (An) impactful newcomer to the starting lineup will be sophomore catcher Kaelyn Buhler who has worked hard all off-season. We shouldn’t miss a step defensively with Kaelyn behind the plate. Offensively we expect to see good things from sophomore Megan Wright, who as a freshman batted .484, had six doubles and five triples and was second on the team with 12 RBI.”
He added: “Our goal this year is to go far in Sectionals and hopefully compete for the championship.”
The team is back after not competing since 2019. The team is 0-1 this season and will next play April 20 at West Canada Valley. Because of the program’s layoff, every player on the team is new to varsity.
Seven out of 13 players on the roster are coming to the sport with no experience at all, noted head coach John Glass. “The team is very young,” with only three seniors and a junior. “My key player to look out for is Sabrina Gates, who I expect to be a valuable defensive player” behind the plate.
“A successful season for this group is not about our wins and losses, but about progress throughout the season. We of course would like to earn a few wins against teams, but ultimately this is an upcoming group that is learning the game, developing their core skills, and already looking ahead to future seasons as we rebuild this program here at Remsen,” Glass said.
The Bulldogs were 9-3 last season. The team is 1-0 to start the season and will play a doubleheader at Oriskany on April 16. Head coach Thomas LaPolla said the team’s biggest loss from last season is Olivia Golden. Back as key contributors are Samantha Ferguson, Autumn Millington and Jenna Tyczynski. New to varsity but expected to make an impact are Lily Mazur and Bailee Serianni.
“As with all teams, making Sectionals is always a key goal,” LaPolla said. “However if we can build on last season’s success and advance further than round two, we would consider that a successful season. But, we should not be satisfied with just that goal. We should strive to advance and try to win ‘The Last Game.’”
The Jugglers went 3-11 last season and started 2022 at 2-1. The team travels to Oriskany for an 11 a.m. start Monday. Jackie Roberts is one key player who graduated after last season that the team will have to replace. The team has a number of key players back from last season: senior Sam Paparella (shortstop); junior Lily Comenale (outfield); sophomores Maggie Trinkaus (catcher) and Vita Waters (third base); and eighth graders Ella Trinkaus (pitcher) and Erin Trinkaus (second base).
According to head coach Jerry Albanese, the team has three goals: be a better defensive team than last year, “compete and be a tough/pesky team to play against in the Tri-Valley League, maybe be league champs,” and qualify for Sectional post-season play. He said he wants “to see each player improve their skill set, whether it’s being a hitter, bunter, or becoming a solid defender.”
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here