By Dylan Butler
For the first time in almost two decades the reigning PSAL ‘A’ softball champion isn’t from Staten Island since Francis Lewis defeated Tottenville in last year’s title game.
But will the crown remain in Queens for another year?
Bayside coach Steve Piorkowski certainly hopes so. That’s because the Commodores, a deep and talented team, have perhaps the best chance among borough teams to win the championship this year.
After finishing 17-4 last season, Bayside returns five seniors, including all three — that’s right, three — of its pitchers from last season in Kim Hattan (7-2, 0.42 earned run average), Sapphire Edwards (7-0, 3.15 ERA) and lightning-fast Annel Sanchez, who batted .448 last year and will also see time in center field.
Also back for Bayside are seniors Justine Kraus, who batted .469 last year with 21 RBI and who will catch, second baseman Allie Falco and junior third baseman Gayle Silverstein.
“We should do fine,” said Piorkowski, whose team has been eliminated by Tottenville in the playoffs for two straight years. “But we’ll be our own worst enemy. Hopefully we’ll stay focused. The question is how focused and determined we are.”
If Bayside isn’t the most experienced team, then that distinction goes to Bryant, which returns five seniors and two juniors from last year’s 6-13 team.
Leading the group of returnees is much-improved senior pitcher Ally Stamatiades, who went 6-10 last year with a 5.46 ERA but has near pinpoint control this year.
“She really has gotten it together,” said Bryant coach Wally Hausdorf, who enters his 23rd year on the bench. “The most important thing is that she’s getting the ball around the plate.”
Also back are seniors Jackie Rodriguez, a four-year starter behind the plate; Jessica Santiago, who moves from third base to first base; second baseman Allison Stupakevich; and leftfielder and No. 2 pitcher Amanda Acevedo.
Townsend Harris, which was 7-11 last year, also welcomes back several familiar faces including senior Megan Davidow; junior catcher Patty Pabon; sophomore Jodie Wright, who batted .493 last season; and pitchers Melissa Tubens and Alyssa Wick, who batted .417 on a Hawks team that averaged seven runs per game last year.
Led by TimesLedger Player of the Year Alyssa Schneebaum and TimesLedger Coach of the Year Judy McCleary, Francis Lewis won its first city title since 1975 last year, but both, along with catcher Lucia Oswald, are gone this season. Schneebaum is at Lehigh while McCleary is taking a respite from coaching to spend more time with her children.
Manny Solomon, a former pitching standout at Queens College in the late 1960s, takes the reigns at Francis Lewis this year.
While the battery of Schneebaum and Oswald is gone, back is a solid defensive team led by senior first baseman Victoria Gardner, senior outfielder/second baseman Tori Meluzin, senior second baseman Carli Iannotto and twins Stephanie and Catherine Alves, who will start at center field and shortstop, respectively.
The starting pitching duties fall to senior Meghan Wooley, who had three saves and a 2.10 ERA last year, and freshman Jessica Payero will catch.
“We’ll do OK,” Solomon said. “Defensively and offensively we should do well.”
The only pitcher better than Francesca Romano last year in Queens was Alyssa Schneebaum, and after leading John Adams to a 14-7 record last year, Romano (10-2, 1.45 ERA and a .547 batting average with 27 RBI) is at Molloy College.
After being pampered by spectacular pitching by Michelle Tusa (St. Francis College) and Romano, Tom Maher doesn’t have that dominant arm this season, his eighth and most challenging yet as Spartans head coach.
“It’s going to be a real challenge,” Maher said. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
Back for Adams is senior Rita Limitone, who has “a gun for an arm,” according to Maher, senior first baseman/centerfielder Daneisha Lloyd, senior first baseman Dinorah Diaz and junior catcher, pitcher and shortstop Carmela Napolitano. And Junior Nicole Rowe and sophomores Katie Ritznore, Tabitha Sabater and Alexis Olmeda have shown promise.
Cardozo, which has been to the playoffs for 11 straight years, lost pitcher Lindsey Rhodes and catcher Priscilla Juarez last year, but the Judges return senior shortstop Carrie Seidel, who tore her shoulder and elbow last season.
Also back is senior Sara Colosi, who will see time at third base and center field.
“It’s going to be a fight every day, but we will have fun no matter what,” said Larry Alberts, in his 17th year as head coach. “We’re going to have a good time.”
Demetria Brown returns for her second year as head coach of a very young Van Buren team that is probably about two more years away from challenging teams at the top of the division.
“This year’s team is pretty young, but we have a lot of new girls who have a lot of playing experience,” she said. “These girls play travel ball; they play all summer long. Last year we didn’t have a lot of experienced ballplayers.”
One of the few with experience last year is senior Katie Christensen, who moves from shortstop to pitcher this year. Also back is power-hitting junior first baseman Natasha Diaz for the VeeBees, which finished 2-17 last year.
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.