They are reunited!
Jackie Zilnicki had been the Bishop McGann-Mercy softball coach for one year before taking over the Riverhead team for the past three years. Now, three of her former Mercy players — junior outfielder Georgine Posillico, senior outfielder Ryan Waski and Jordyn Stromski, a senior who Zilnicki said can play anywhere — have joined forces with her again. The three former Monarchs will be wearing Riverhead blue and white this coming season.
“I coached them at Mercy, so having them here is pretty special,” said Zilnicki.
The threesome will give a shot in the arm to a veteran Riverhead team hoping to reach the playoffs. Last year they experienced Mercy’s first Suffolk County championship and run to the Long Island Class C final before the Riverhead Catholic school closed.
“Jordyn will be a big benefit because she can play anywhere and she’s a great leader already,” Zilnicki said. “They’re bringing in that experience from making the playoffs, so they know what it feels like.”
Riverhead, which went 8-12 last year and fell short of the playoffs, has eight seniors and seven returning starters. Among them is junior pitcher Katie Lysogorski, the 2018 League III Rookie of the Year. Lysogorski’s value is unquestioned.
“She pitched every game and we lost a lot of close games,” Zilnicki said. “She battled on the field and defensively. She’s awesome. She’s well-rounded and she’s a leader on the mound. She wants to win. She has that competitive nature.”
Lysogorski’s older sister, senior outfielder Arianna Lysogorski, is also back. Casey Dunbar, a junior who played shortstop last year, has been moved to third base. Seniors Emily Bazarewski and Brooke McKay will play second base and first, respectively. Versatile senior Alexis Polak played centerfield last year but may be moved elsewhere. The starting catcher will be senior Crysten Apicello.
Two sophomores, Logan Carey and Kaleigh Seal, play in the outfield. Carey is also the No. 2 pitcher and Seal is the backup catcher. Senior Christy Falisi was hurt last year but played the year before. Her position is undetermined.
“We have a very senior team,” said Zilnicki, who still hasn’t determined who her shortstop will be. “We have the talent. We have the experience this year.”
Zilnicki knows talent alone is not enough, though. The Blue Waves will have to execute in League III against strong teams like Bay Shore, Connetquot and Walt Whitman. She said, “It’s a tough league, but that’s what you want.”
Shoreham-Wading River was a league champion two years ago. Last year the Wildcats went 9-9 and failed to get into the playoffs.
SWR hopes to change that this year with the help of its only three seniors: All-County middle infielder Katlynn McGivney (.556, 25 runs scored), All-Conference third baseman Joy Papagianopoulos (.450, two home runs, 21 RBIs) and All-Conference catcher Melissa Marchese (.411, three homers, 20 RBIs).
“Our three seniors need to perform consistently at the level that they’re capable of and the younger players need to show growth from the experience they gained last year,” said assistant coach Tom Veryzer.
Those seniors can be relied upon.
Veryzer called McGivney “one of the best softball players in Suffolk County. She can play any position effectively, is focused and leads by example.”
As for Papagianopoulos, he said: “Joy is a tremendous third baseman. She can hit for power and average and hits to all fields.”
Marchese, Veryzer said, is “an underrated defensive catcher and she has the potential to change any game with her offensive abilities.”
SWR lost three starters from last year. “We had some younger players last year that were in their first year of varsity,” Veryzer said. “… We’re hoping that their experience helps them going forward this year.”
SWR’s two games against East Hampton this year will carry added interest. SWR head coach Bill King will face off against his son and former SWR head coach and assistant coach, John King, who now coaches East Hampton. The teams will play April 10 in Shoreham and May 9 in East Hampton.
“I think we put ourselves in a position to possibly make the playoffs, but we hope to return to playoff form this year,” Veryzer said. “We’re excited to get going. We feel good about this year’s team. We think we have a good mix of experience and youth.”
And three seniors who can get the job done.
Photo caption: Riverhead junior Katie Lysogorski was the League III Rookie of the Year in 2018. (Credit: Garret Meade, file)