By Dylan Butler
Wayne Crawford isn’t making any excuses.
After losing in the PSAL ‘B’ softball championship game last year, the Newtown coach learned star player Monica Pahl, who was 11-1 with a 2.97 earned run average and batted .722 with nine home runs and 56 RBI, is academically ineligible this year.
Without Pahl, the Pioneers return just two starting seniors, catcher Ally Zarate and leftfielder Roceli Davila; the rest of the team is talented athletes learning the game as they go.
“We only have four players who have played before. The rest are all new,” said third-year Crawford, whose team was 20-3 last year. “I can’t worry about [Pahl]. We’re going to make mistakes. Will we learn from our mistakes in the question.”
Junior Erika Collado, who Crawford says is a “Greg Maddux-type,” will take over on the mound, and freshman shortstop Laura Ulloa and freshman Geselle Perez have shown promise.
It will be hard to match last year’s success for Forest Hills, which went 26-5 and advanced to the semifinals for the first time in school history, losing to eventual champion Bushwick.
Seven starters are gone, but back for the Rangers, coached by Jonas Garelle, is senior pitcher Jessica Chow (12-3, 4.73 ERA and .714 batting average with four home runs and 30 RBI) and senior shortstop Anna Burkadze, who batted .396 with two homers and 16 RBI last year.
While catcher Michelle Wallace (St. Francis College) and centerfielder Jessica Mermelstein are gone, Robert F. Kennedy has six starters back from a team that finished a surprising first in Queens III-B last season.
Returning for the Panthers are senior pitcher Maritza Hernandez (.583 batting average with five home runs and 43 RBI), who will also bat fourth, power-hitting shortstop Jennifer Giannone (.611 batting average and 38 RBI) and junior catcher Nicole Sims, who will bat leadoff.
“They seem to enjoy playing every game; they work hard every day,” said James Gildea, who along with Doug Sargent serves as co-coach. “We have 20 players on the roster and a lot have never played, but the older girls are teaching the younger girls.”
John Bowne has been hitting the cover off the ball in the preseason and defensively, at least in the infield, the Wildcats have been solid. Pitching? Well that’s another story.
“If we don’t come up with a pitcher … it’s hard to tell,” John Bowne coach Bruce Bitterman said. “The kids are hitting beautifully.”
Junior Chantal Biscette, who started in the outfield last year, will attempt to pitch. Also back for the Wildcats, who finished 10-7 last year, are junior shortstop Marissa Singh, Bowne’s cleanup hitter for the past three years; junior Gloria Fernandez, a utility infielder who has found a home at third base; and junior center fielder Gizette Knight.
Jamaica just missed the playoffs by one game last year, but the Beavers return just four starters in what will likely be a tougher season.
Returning is Kedesha Farquharson, the team’s No. 1 pitcher and No. 1 hitter who was 7-7 with a 3.45 ERA and batted .500 with 23 RBI last year. Also back is catcher Nicole Daley, center fielder Christine Cave and third baseman Samantha Ramautar.
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.