SHRUB OAK, N.Y.— Lakeland’s softball squad enjoyed an incredible season last spring, going 22-2 and as the No. 1 seed lost to No. 2 Pearl River 2-1 in the Section 1 Class A championship game at North Rockland.
This year, Lakeland’s goal is to win its league, get back to the sectional finals and win it, according to its seventh-year coach Joe Chiara.
Chiara was previously a Hornet assistant coach for 19 years for Steve Fallo, who’s now his assistant.
“Over the years we have developed such a tremendous relationship that we both know what the other person would do in every situation,” Chiara said.
Lakeland’s senior captains are pitcher/outfielder Colleen Walsh, who has 50 career wins and more than 500 career strikeouts and will play at Sacred Heart University next season, and catcher Amber Badillo (University of Maryland-Baltimore County). Walsh was second team all-state last season while Badillo was fourth team all-state.
“Colleen has the will to compete with the best and a strong desire to win,” Chiara said. “Amber has the ability to catch a terrific game defensively and offensively is a very good hitter with a great understanding of the strike zone.”
Lakeland has a trio of key returning seniors, including second baseman Cameron Lischinsky (Long Island University Post, second team all-state), who can hit to all fields; shortstop Krista Verrino (Ramapo College), who is solid defensively in addition to being a nice contact hitter; and first baseman Olivia Knopf (Marist College), who can hit for power in addition to having a strong understanding of the strike zone.
Juniors Jess Ascencao (outfield/third base) and Kayla Bugeya (outfield/third base) and senior Isabelle DeMatteis (outfield/catcher) are three other key returning upperclassmen the Hornets will rely on this spring.
Lakeland also has two key returning underclassmen in sophomore Claire Fon (pitcher/first base), who is reliable on the mound in giving the Hornets consistent innings behind Walsh, and freshman Krystal Badillo (outfield/pitcher), who is strong defensively in the outfield.
Sophomores Amber Lopez (outfield/catcher) and Amanda DiClerico (infield/outfield), junior Lauren Reichelt (infield) and eighth-grader Hannah Matusiak (outfield/infield) are talented newcomers added to the Hornets’ squad.
Lakeland was scheduled to open up at 4:30 p.m. on March 29 at home against Roy C. Ketcham.
“The key to getting off to a solid start to the season will be receiving good pitching from our pitchers along with solid defense in the field,” Chiara said.