The state of California hasn’t been friendly to Adelphi’s softball team, but playing — and losing — against tough West Coast competition paid off last year with a postseason ticket to the College World Series in Oklahoma.
The Panthers opened their 2015 World Series season with an 0-10 trip in California. This season, after Friday’s doubleheader loss to Azusa Pacific, they were 2-6. So that’s an improvement.
“At the end of (last) season, I didn’t even know where the World Series was being held,” pitcher Lindsay Mapes said of the moments after winning the 2015 East Super Regional by sweeping a doubleheader at Southern New Hampshire. “I didn’t know until they told us on the bus ride.”
Adelphi went 1-2 in the World Series, losing to eventual champion North Georgia and runner-up Dixie State.
Can Adelphi return? The Panthers (31-22, 13-5 NE-10 last year) were ranked No. 7 in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association preseason poll and have plenty of reasons to think so.
Sophomore Brenna Martini hit .400 with nine home runs and 51 RBIs and has been named to the Division II National Player of the Year watch list. She punctuated her first season with a game-winning grand slam to send the Panthers to the World Series. Sophomore Krista King, who was the team’s leadoff hitter last year, hit .364 with 42 runs scored.
“I don’t get RBIs if people like Krista don’t get on base in front of me,” Martini said. “Our stats are so dependant on each other.”
Mapes led from the circle with a 19-11 record and a 2.14 ERA in 222 innings. She spent the majority of last season battling a leg injury, but pitched until the end. She’s healthy again and is expected to be the go-to pitcher from start to finish.
But talking about the future makes the Panthers uncomfortable. “We’re not really trying to replicate last season because I don’t think you can,” Martini said. “We worked day by day, inning by inning, game by game.”
LIU Post (32-17-1, 22-6), East Coast Conference
The perennial powerhouse Pioneers came a couple games short of going to the World Series for the second consecutive year, losing to Southern New Hampshire in the East regional. Paige Swantek is the main offensive power presence with seven home runs and 33 RBIs last season.
This year’s team should feature a more speed-oriented offense than the past few years, coach Jamie Apicella said. But veteran pitchers along with youth getting a chance to contribute will be two of Post’s strengths. Senior Isabella Corrao (7-4, 1.49 ERA in six starts) and junior Ashley Martin (18-6, 1.61 ERA) will be veteran presences with freshman Hannah Olshevski contributing.
NYIT (28-22, 17-11), ECC
The New York Institute of Technology is an upperclassmen-laden team bolstered with experienced transfers. There are seven seniors and most will enter the season holding starting spots. “Hopefully it will equate to a lot of wins and gives the younger players a chance to grow as well,” coach Steve Christianson said. Kat Zabielski ranked second in the conference in home runs (nine) and RBIs (51) in her first season after transferring from Stony Brook.
Molloy (24-27, 18-10), ECC
Tracey Balinskas and Chelsea Hawks lead the Lions. Balinskas had a .416 batting average and 39 RBIs last season and went 12-11 with a 4.60 ERA from the circle. Hawks is a junior pitcher who will be a key for Molloy this year. She went 11-11 with a 4.65 ERA in 2015. Overall, Lions pitchers allowed 53 home runs and had an ERA of 4.88.
Dowling (17-28-1, 9-19), ECC
Third baseman Arianna La Puma is the offensive motor for Dowling, having led the team with a .369 batting average and 25 RBIs in 130 at bats. Vanessa Juengerkes threw nine complete games with 69 strikeouts in 140.1 innings. She went 9-15 with a 4.64 ERA.
Farmingdale State (22-15, 10-4), Skyline
The Rams are coming off their fifth consecutive Skyline Conference title. First baseman Lori Michalowski hit .419 with 18 RBIs. Senior catcher Meagan Anderson leads off after hitting .396 with 34 runs scored in 2015. Together, they’re the two top batters on a team that lost players to graduation. Coach Chris Mooney said he’s hoping to mitigate that loss with impactful freshmen Jaxie Collard (pitcher), Christina Rayfield (shortstop) and Aleysha Midgett (centerfielder).
St. Joseph’s (18-18, 9-5), Skyline
Coach Lisa Jusino leads a new staff in its first season and said she’s looking to bring a new outlook to St. Joseph’s. Senior centerfielder Lindsey Corriss should be a tough out with her speed. Senior Mallory McClafferty pitched to a 7-6 record and 3.52 ERA in 2015, and Jusino said her experience in big games will be an important factor this year.
Old Westbury (8-24, 2-12) Skyline
Junior outfielder Gabriella Valdes leads the Panthers with speed, versatility and a strong bat. She hit .360 with 19 runs scored and three triples last season. Sophomore infielder and pitcher Amanda Fucci hit .333 with 14 RBIs. She had four wins and struck out 61 batters in 87.2 innings.
Nassau Community College (14-2, 18-7) Region XV
The reigning Region XV champions are led by sophomore shortstop Valerie Fisher, who hit .552 with five home runs last season. Nassau will rely on an influx of freshmen to replace last year’s region player of the year, Ashley Davis. She led the team in pitching and hitting. Freshmen Nicole Lang and Danielle Trotta will take over the pitching duties, coach Bob Cozzetto said.
Suffolk County Community College (7-17) Region XV
SCCC enters its second season under coach Joseph Kosina and this time there’s a roster of returning players to lead the way. He had one returner when he took over, but now has six plus a quality recruiting class. Sophomore Samantha Magerovich leads the offense after hitting .532 with six doubles, four triples, three home runs and 21 RBIs. Courtney Lawrence is part of the incoming class and is expected to be the go-to pitcher.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Tracey Balinskas I Molloy 3B/P, Sr.
East Coast Conference’s player of the year last season is the preseason player of the year this season. She hit .416 with 39 RBIs and 12 home runs and went 12-11 with a 4.60 ERA as a pitcher.
Brenna Martini Adelphi 1B, Soph.
Sophomore hit .400 with a .710 slugging percentage last season en route to being named the NE-10 rookie of the year. Led the team in doubles (17), RBIs (51) and home runs (nine).
Ashley Martin LIU Post, P, Jr.
Went 18-6 with a 1.61 ERA and was the East Coast Conference’s pitcher of the year.
Kat Zabielski NYIT, IB/3B, Sr.
Second in the East Coast Conference with nine home runs and 51 RBIs after transferring from Stony Brook.
Samantha Magerovich Suffolk CCC, 1B/3B/C, Soph.
Hit .532 with six doubles, four triples, three home runs and 21 RBIs in Region XV.