Softball teams preparing for memorable spring

Skylar Petroski, a starter at third base for Franklin Towne Charter, was the winning pitcher in last year’s Public League championship game. TIMES FILE PHOTO

The teams have been great.

The weather has not.

Softball teams throughout Northeast Philadelphia are ready to go on a run this year, and once the weather becomes more suitable for spring sports, there will be teams in three leagues with a chance to win a title this year.

Here is a glimpse at some of the local schools’ prospects for softball.

CATHOLIC LEAGUE

Archbishop Ryan

The Ragdolls have quietly built a dynasty, winning the past three Catholic League championships. Last year, they finished 20–5 and ended up playing much better as the season went on.

This year should be more of the same.

Leading the way will be an infield that includes Emily Ostaszewski, Reilly Kerr, Katelyn Ostaszewski and Haley Burns, who will also see time at catcher.

The outfield will consist of Amanda Lawson, Skylar Elliott and Annie Cashman.

While the Ragdolls don’t have a tremendous number of returning players, coach John Kidwell expects another strong run if things break their way.

“Our defense should keep us in every game this year,” Kidwell said. “We will need our young players to develop and contribute in their roles so we can compete in a competitive (Catholic League) this year.

Little Flower

Little Flower will start a lot of underclassmen, but senior Gerri Passalacqua, the team’s captain, will provide leadership, as well as a strong bat. BILL ACHUFF / FOR THE TIMES

Coach Mark Fusetti takes over a team that includes a lot of talented freshmen to go along with a good mix of veterans who know how to play varsity softball. How successful it goes depends upon how well the younger players pick up the game.

The leaders of the team are seniors Gerri Passalacqua and Colleen Trahey.

Other contributing members of the team include Amber Lewis, Rachel Booth, Celeste O’Neill, Nicole Lemongelli, Kamryn Frank, Alex Dolan, Dilenia Baez, Haley Waring, Allison Ross, Shaylyn Edwards, Erika Nugent, Makenzie Paxson, Ginny Britto and Courtney Sherwood.

The good news for Little Flower is that it has depth at a very important position.

“Our varsity and JV are very fortunate to have a strong pitching staff this season,” Fusetti said. “We have three freshmen, Makenzie Paxson, Virginia “Ginny” Britto, Caitlin Clarke, junior Caitlin Panei and senior Amber Lewis.

“We have a great mix of players from each grade. Our freshmen class this year has so much talent and has given Little Flowers softball a very bright future. With our strong leadership from our captains and a wonderful mix of talent, the 2017 season will no doubt be filled with excitement and hopefully a long playoff run.”

St. Hubert’s

The Bambies weren’t supposed to contend for a Catholic League championship a season ago, but they did. They improved as the season went on and ended up in the championship game before falling to Ryan.

That experience should pay dividends this year because many of last year’s heroes return to the mix.

Leading the way will be Emma Clark, who will see time at pitcher and in the infield. Kait Jaworski will also see time in the circle, as will Lindsey Davies.

Other infielders will be Jordan Frye, who can also pitch, Avery Hibbs and Erin Hogan. Emily Shappell will man the catcher position.

Outfielders include Amanda Iriana and Elizabeth Siravo.

On the strength of last year’s success, the Bambies are hoping to contend for a championship in June.

“(Our strength is the) valuable experience we gained last year by the juniors and sophomores, along with an aggressive mindset at the plate,” said coach Dave Schafer.

“We have a tough first few games and the non-league schedule should help the team get playoff ready. (We’re) looking to better last year’s record and finish.”

CATHOLIC ACADEMIES

Nazareth Academy

The Catholic Academies League is always loaded and this year is no different. But the Pandas come in with a lot of talent and high hopes.

Leading the way will be catcher Georgia O’Connor. She’ll work with pitchers Devyn Dydak, also an outfielder, and Natalie Minitti, also a first baseman.

Other contributors will be third baseman Caitlyn Ferry and middle infielder Megan Dignam.

“The Pandas have a wide range of strengths this year, including leadership, power in the lineup and young upcoming talent,” said Nazareth coach Danielle Vittitow, who guided the Pandas to a 9–9 record a season ago. “We will continue to work on our weaknesses and accentuate our strengths for what hopes to be a successful season.

“(We) have a promising outlook not only for this year but for years to come. With a possible six underclassmen in the starting lineup, the Pandas’ future looks bright. This year, we have a wide range of talent in all positions and aspects of the game. This will allow us to compete with any team on any given day. We may be a team that is overlooked in the league but we will be coming at our opponents with some force.

“The players are eager to learn and get better with every drill, every practice and will continue with every game. As coaches, that is all we can hope for. We expect to improve on our record from last year and prove that we are not a lackluster team but a team with heart, conviction, fight and many wins under our belt.”

PUBLIC LEAGUE

Abraham Lincoln

The Railsplitters enjoyed a 7–7 season a year ago and this year the team could take another step toward contending for a Public League championship.

The captains of the squad are Autumn Nolan, Erika Velez and Madison Lakasik. That trio will lead the team on and off the field.

Responsible for getting outs will be up-and-coming sophomore pitcher Nicolette D’Agostino.

According to Lincoln coach Paul Cammarota, the Railsplitters will go as far as the senior class leads them.

“Senior leadership is crucial to the success of our team,” Cammarota said. “They are helping the younger players fine-tune their skills. As always, pitching is key to the game and Nicolette is very competitive.

“As long as we stay focused on how we should play the game, I think we will come together and put on a competitive game. We just need to stay on the path from the first inning to the last.”

Frankford

The Pioneers won seven games last year, and once again, they come in with some strong players and some inexperienced, but talented girls.

The team will be led by seniors Jazmine Torres (shortstop) and Delores Rivera (catcher).

Other contributors include Tianna Kunneh, Taleema Butts, Amber Emery, Anell DeLeon-Tavarez, Ada Almodovar, Stefany Castro-Santos, Carina Paulino, Wanda Comacho, Carolina DeLosSantos and Nasiyah Stepp.

The Pioneers have some holes to fill, but so far things have been going fairly smooth.

“This is a building year,” Frankford coach Joe Fite said. “We lost three key players to graduation and my starting pitcher went down with a knee injury with two outs in the first inning of the first game of the season. So we have spent a lot of time on instruction. It may not pay off for us this season, but hopefully it will down the road.

“Our infield is solid and I can count on them to make the plays we should make.”

Franklin Towne Charter

Last year, the Chargers won 14 games and hoisted the Public League trophy at season’s end. And the good news is many of the players responsible for last year’s title are back.

Leading the way will be senior pitcher Michelle Slaughter. Also, Skyler Petroski, a third baseman, returns to the mix.

Other seniors who are ready to go out with a bang are Katie Olszewski and Marissa Kubis.

Kadirah Williams, Linda Jackson and Julia Carter are underclassmen who will be counted on if the Chargers want to repeat.

Pitching, hitting and experience could help the Chargers win another crown this spring.

“Our team works really hard every day to become better than we have been before,” Franklin Towne coach Lauren Esposito said. “We are constantly striving to improve our weaknesses in order to transform them into future strengths. We work together as a team, we stay humble when we get something right, and we try not to let it bring us down when we get something wrong. We support each other and are proud to each play an integral part of the fabric that makes up our team.

“Teamwork, sportsmanship, perseverance and humility are the values that we cherish the most. We are going to play our hardest, do the best we can, and win or lose, we will be proud of our effort at the end of the day. We are ready to leave it all on the field.”

George Washington

The Eagles come into the season with a few question marks and a few great players who are ready to lead the way.

One of those players is Heather Hodkinson, who has played five different positions this year. She lines up wherever the team needs her. Another senior who will contribute is Felicia Padilla, who is also playing all over the diamond. And Darianna Craven is another leader who is playing second base. She also gives the team some speed on the bases.

Those players will be counted on heavily as the Eagles try to get better on the fly.

“We are a small but tough group of girls trying to be better at all aspects of the game and in life,” said Washington coach Frank King.

Northeast

The Vikings didn’t get off to a great start last year, but they got hot at the right time. After finishing 5–7, the team recovered to win two playoff games.

This year, the Vikings will turn to freshman pitcher Hannah McIllmurray to lead them on the bump.

Other stars will be Celine Soler, Kelsey McConnell, Jala Lewis and Tamara Jenkins.

Inexperience could be a problem for Northeast, but with many talented players, it could once again cause other teams grief in June.

“We are a young team, starting three freshmen, but we have upgraded at four or five positions,” Northeast coach Tom Kane said. “We will miss the play of our senior catcher Kelsey McConnell next season, but the future looks bright with so many underclassmen.”

Tacony Charter

Last year, the Lions enjoyed a stellar campaign that saw them finish 11–2. That raises the bar for this year.

Tacony will be led by Jorden Hunter, Amanda Olivo and Dominique McIlhenney. Those three should help the team in the field and at the plate.

The Lions have high hopes coming into the season, and coach Roisellen Feeney believes the team can once again be a contender.

“Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game,” Feeney said. “It’s not just a game, it’s a lifestyle.” ••