Local teams reign supreme in the East Coast Conference.
Three Division II softball powers — LIU Post, Molloy and NYIT — are projected to finish Nos. 1 through 3 in the conference, respectively, according to a preseason coaches poll.
The Pioneers earned six of seven first-place votes after a 37-15-1 campaign that culminated in a loss to Molloy in the East 2 Sub-Regional. They return both the ECC Preseason Pitcher of the Year, sophomore Hannah Olshevski, and the Preseason Player of the Year, sophomore Julia Seader.
Coach Jamie Apicella said the team that inevitably wins the conference will be the one that plays a well-rounded offensive game. “The pitching’s going to be there, there’s no question about it,” he said. “Whoever has a balanced lineup with speed and power and can put pressure on opposing defenses and score runs is a team that’s going to be able to win the conference.”
NYIT’s offense paved the way to 36-13 overall record last season. The Bears mashed 61 home runs and slugged .555. Seven seniors graduated from the powerhouse, but coach Steve Christianson expects his lineup to be more balanced despite the losses. “We’re a new type of team at NYIT that’s designed a little different than the power side of it,” he said. “They look upon themselves as a more athletic team.”
Slick-fielding infielder Tiffany McCracken is coming off a seven-homer season, and the senior thinks the offense still has some pop left in it. “I think we have the potential to have a power offense like last year,” she said. “We’re a lot different in the sense that we’re a lot deeper than last year.”
Fueled by First-Team All-Conference pitcher Laura McLaughlin, the Bears’ pitching could support the potentially potent offense.
Sandwiched between Post and NYIT in the preseason poll is Molloy, which lost to Adelphi in the East 2 Sub-Regional last season. The Lions seek their second straight ECC crown and return 15 of the 18 players from last year’s 35-24 squad.
Senior ace Chelsea Hawks returns after striking out 180 batters in 1901⁄3 innings and holding opponents to a .231 batting average. Milan Botte, a graduate student, hit a team-leading .398 last season with seven homers and 36 RBIs and could pace the lineup again.
Having won its second straight regional title last season, the Adelphi Panthers open as the No. 7 team in the country, according to the National Fastpitch Coaches’ Association’s Division II Top 25 Preseason Coaches Poll.
Returning Northeast-10 Player of the Year Brenna Martini, a junior, was selected to the watch list for the NFCA/Schutt Sports Division II National Player of the Year Award after leading the Panthers in nearly all major offensive categories.
She hit .400/.537/.807 with 13 doubles, 14 home runs and 61 RBIs.
Farmingdale State featured little power last season, only hitting 12 home runs as a team. But the Rams managed to hit .295 and get on base at a .374 clip, so the offense was far from anemic.
Breanna Susa (Bay Shore), Christina Rayfield (Commack) and Lori Michalowski (Lindenhurst) are the only returning players to clear the fences last season, and they’ll be relied upon to drive runs home.
Sophomore Jaxie Collard (Deer Park) led the team from the circle, tossing 173 of the team’s 2122⁄3 frames and compiling a 15-13 record.
The Rams defeated St. Joseph’s (LI) in the Skyline Conference First Round, but the Golden Eagles boast pitching depth this season in juniors Lauren Buturla (Hauppauge) and Sandra Foster (East Meadow).
Offensively, senior Gabrielle Cinquemani (West Islip) is one of the conference’s best bats. She hit .355/.425/.729 with eight home runs and 30 RBIs as a junior.
SUNY-Old Westbury went 0-4 against the Rams and Eagles last season. Sophomore Samantha Scharff (Seaford) and senior Gabriella Valdes were both named to the All-Skyline second team as anchors of the lineup.
Suffolk CCC dominated the conference last season, posting a 20-0 mark in conference. The Sharks won the NJCAA District H Championship.
Sophomore Courtney Lawrence (Rocky Point) was named Region XV Championship Tournament MVP, and she returns to the circle as one of the Sharks’ top players.
The Sharks bested Nassau CC in the title game, though Nassau’s Valerie Fischer (Williston Park), Caitlin McGuggart (Bethpage), Nicole Lang (Roslyn) and Jacqueline Perno were named to the All-Tournament team.
All four players return in 2017.