By Patrick McCormack
It is always difficult to defend a championship, but it may be harder to do so at the high school level because teams lose key members each season.
Construction will be without big pieces from last year’s PSAL Class A championship squad, but will return two key softball players who are aiming for another league title.
The defending champion Red Hawks bring back pitcher and top hitter Britney Rodriguez, TimesLedger Newspapers’ reigning Queens Player of the Year, along with All-Queens senior shortstop Amy Pirozek. Construction is already off to a strong start this season, and Coach Marco Migliaccio sees Rodriguez and Pirozek, both seniors, as keys to the Red Hawks’ success.
“Britney is a top player in the state,” he said. “She dominates on the mound and at bat. Amy is the captain and our leader.”
Rodriguez showed she deserved the recognition last year in the circle by putting up a 20-1 overall record and posting a 1.37 ERA. She also displayed her talent at the plate, blasting eight home runs and collecting 52 RBI in 21 games. She wants to win the title again with Construction as well as staying on top of her own game.
“We are playing as a team and we are playing to defend our title,” Rodriguez said. “Personally, I want to keep up what I did last year this year. I finished last year strong, and I am playing to be remembered.”
Getting back to the top will present some challenges for Construction. It lost four position players, including All-Queens first team catcher Kailan Luciano and Katherine Valle at first base.
Pirozek, who batted .680, scored 40 runs and collected 34 RBI last season, wants to help the players who may not have as much experience to take the Red Hawks back to the top of the league.
“I think I can use last year to influence the team,” she said. “We lost a lot of players, but I will use the season to influence the team to be the best that we can be.”
Migliaccio already sees players stepping up to fill the void. He described freshman Lizul Portugal as one of the team’s top hitters and noted first baseman Nicole Ovelheira was making contact with the ball well. Portugal knows she is an important part of the team and believes she can compete at the varsity level because of her time on the summer travel ball circuit.
“I just have to contribute and use my skill,” she said. “I have enough experience through tournament ball.”
Migliaccio also sees senior outfielders Karina Aquino and Jayleen Ovalles stepping up for the Red Hawks. Construction has started this season 4-0 and has won three of the four games by 10 or more runs. As the team continues to grow and work hard, Migliaccio envisions this club as being as good as last year’s.
“We need to work hard, work on fundamentals, make sure our chemistry is working the same as last year,” Migliaccio said. “If we work hard, we will be fine. We expect to do our best and whatever happens happens. If we do our best, good things will happen.”