John King’s answers to questions were carefully measured. Sure, the Shoreham-Wading River High School softball team could be looking at a special season, but the Wildcats assistant coach wasn’t about to get ahead of himself before the team’s first pitch was thrown.
“We know we do have a very good team,” said King, whose father, Bill, is the head coach. “We think we’re capable of doing well, but we’ll see once the season gets going.”
Shoreham (17-4), which was a league champion last year, is ranked seventh among Long Island small schools by Newsday. The Class A team could do big things this season.
“We think we have a pretty good team,” John King said. “Offensively, we know we’re capable of scoring runs. It’s just like with any team, you never know what you’re going to get until the game starts.”
Shoreham knows what it will get from its two-time All-County junior catcher, Melissa Marchese, as well as two of its other All-County players, junior second baseman Katlynn McGivney and senior pitcher Victoria Coman.
And that isn’t all. The Wildcats also have All-Division junior shortstop Joy Papagianopoulos, sophomore first baseman/pitcher Veronica Coman (Victoria’s sister), senior third baseman Olivia Baudo, senior centerfielder Katherine Opiela and senior designated hitter Sarah Fabian, who is coming off knee surgery. Outfielder Julia Marsala is also back.
Joining the team are outfielder Genna Baudo (Olivia’s sister), infielder/outfielder Lauren Halloran, outfielder/designated hitter Lindsay Cahill and outfielder Julianna Asaro.
“Most of them put in the work in the offseason,” John King said. “There’s a lot of girls that play travel ball and get lessons. It’s nice to have a lot of girls returning to the team who have experience at the varsity level and the playoffs, and the new additions to the team are all great girls and dedicated softball players.”
What is one to expect of Class A Shoreham this year?
“To make a county final would be great,” John King said. “If the girls all play together and support each other, the sky’s the limit for them.”
Bishop McGann-Mercy (9-7) is playing for a purpose this year. It’s not exactly the sort of purpose the Monarchs would have wished for, but it’s a purpose, nonetheless.
With the Riverhead Catholic school set to close after this school year, the Monarchs want to make their final season one to remember.
“There are a lot of emotions that the girls are going through, but I think that it’s making our team a little closer,” said coach Rose Horton, a 2008 Mercy graduate herself. “They’re really supportive. It’s a sad situation, but it’s a nice dynamic of a family shining through. The girls are pretty determined to go far in the season, but now I think they will have a little more fire and a little more to play for.”
All but one of the players from Mercy’s 2017 playoff team are back, including All-Division sophomore pitcher/shortstop Sarah Penny, senior pitcher/shortstop Izzy Sorgi and junior utility player Jordyn Stromski. The later two were both All-League selections.
Also among the returning veterans are: sophomore centerfielder Gabby Jean, senior third baseman Kate Wilkie, senior catcher/utility player Olivia Valle, senior outfielder Caryn Nabrizny, junior infielder Lauren Hanna and junior utility player Juliana Betancourt.
New to the mix are: outfielder Ryan Waski and utility players Gabby Mangiamelli, Alexa Johnson and Joslyn Lessard.
Horton said, “What they’re playing for is bigger than just a softball team.”
Riverhead coach Jackie Zilnicki counted six games that the Blue Waves (6-14) lost last year that she thought they should have won. Sometimes a team needs to lose before learning how to win. Zilnicki hopes those lessons were learned.
“Our goal — I think every coach’s goal — at the beginning of the season is to make playoffs, and to do that, we need to get better every day and compete in games and compete in practices as well,” she said. “We all understand that we need to work hard every day to get the victories that we want.”
Five returning starters will help: junior centerfielder Alexis Polak, senior third baseman Allyson O’Kula, junior second baseman Emily Bazarewski, senior catcher Ashley Columbus and junior first baseman/pitcher Brooke McKay. Polak was All-League, and O’Kula, a five-year varsity player, will play for Emmanuel College (Mass.). Senior outfielder Grace Dillingham is another returner.
Katie Lysogorski, sophomore lefthander, is the team’s starting pitcher and leadoff batter. “She’s confident on the mound,” Zilnicki said. “She loves the sport. She wants to win. She’s a competitor.”
The new additions are utility players Crysten Apicello and Arianna Lysogorski (Katie’s sister), outfielders Shay Cassara and Clare Stakey, shortstop Casey Dunbar and first baseman/outfielder J’La Ray.
“I think the big difference is we’re all in it together this year,” Zilnicki said. “We understand that it takes everyone on the team to win, that not one person alone can give us a win this year, and so far I’ve been seeing that.”
Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River’s Melissa Marchese races home for a run while Miller Place pitcher Hannah Burton covers home plate in a game last year. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk, file)