Weekly Feature

2018-04-12 / Sports

Return to sectional final high on East softball’s to-do list


As a group, the eight seniors who make up nearly two-thirds of this year’s softball team at West Seneca East got to go on an incredible ride that included just the second sectional title in program history, a program-best 20-5 overall record and an appearance in the Class A Far West Regionals.

And after being eliminated from the postseason much earlier than anticipated last spring, Lady Trojans coach Sam Sebastian is eager to see how his veteran leaders react this year, knowing full well that this will be their final chance to do something special on a softball diamond while wearing an East jersey.

“I’m kind of looking forward to the year because I’m really curious to see how these seniors bounce back from being eliminated in the semifinal round last year, with this being their last chance to get back to the sectional final and beyond,” Sebastian said. “Our division is so tough and the competition every game is top notch, so it’s not going to be an easy task. But they’re just a great group of seniors; their character is great and their leadership is fantastic. All 13 girls, for that matter, are excellent students on the field and in the classroom. They all know what they need to do to succeed.”

Key among the group of veteran stalwarts this year will be co-captains Anilese Kelly, Kassidy Aiken and Julia Slowik. Kelly, who was both an All-WNY First Team and ECIC II Co-Pitcher of the Year last season, is looking to improve on her already impressive stats – in 921/3 innings, she struck out 98 while allowing just 66 hits, 35 walks, 36 overall runs and 22 earned runs – prior to continuing her career next year at Kent State. Kelly is no slouch at the plate either, leading the way last season with her .393 average, 22 hits – including a team best four doubles – and 15 runs, while also collecting 12 RBIs.

Aiken, an All-Bee Honorable Mention all-star outfielder last season who will continue her career next year at the University at Buffalo, led the Lady Trojans with 19 RBIs and two home runs while hitting .367 (18 total hits) and scoring 15 runs. Slowik, an ECIC II Second Team and All-Bee Honorable Mention catcher last season who is slated to join Fredonia State’s squad next year, was a steady contributor at the plate as well, hitting .340 with 18 hits, 10 RBIs and 12 runs scored.

Joining Slowik on Fredonia’s club next year will be another of East’s seniors, Nicole Kumro. The first baseman, who was an ECIC II Second Team all-star last year, hit .379 and collected 22 hits, 14 RBIs and 13 runs. Defensively, Kumro had 112 assists and 23 putouts.

Three of the team’s remaining seniors, Camryn Bianchi, Gabby Catlin and Samantha Kmiotek, will also continue their careers collegiately next year, with Bianchi playing at Monroe Community College, and both Catlin and Kmiotek both headed to Daemen College. Bianchi, a part-time outfielder who earned ECIC II First Team all-star status at shortstop last spring, hit .358 with 19 total hits (4 doubles), 12 RBIs and 12 runs scored. Catlin, a third baseman, scored four runs and drove in three others while collecting six hits, and Kmiotek had 12 hits, 11 RBIs and nine runs scored.

Third baseman/pitcher Hannah Fuerst rounds out this season’s collection of seniors. Fuerst, who posted a 2-1 record in her pitching appearances, drove in five runs and had four hits at the plate. Her younger sister, freshman third baseman/ catcher/outfielder Rachel Fuerst, is the team’s only other returning player from last year’s squad. As an eighth grader last season, she chipped in with nine hits and four RBIs.

Rounding out this year’s roster are varsity newcomers Morgan Sultzbach, a junior outfielder/second baseman, Grace Zakowski, a sophomore third baseman/outfielder, and eighth graders Abigail Elliott, a third baseman/outfielder, and Hailey Cenname, a shortstop/outfielder.

“Our five younger players on the squad have eight great role models to learn from this year,” Sebastian said. “With all of their game experience, nothing’s going to catch them off guard. I think it’s shaping up to be a very interesting year for us with the group that we have, but we’re also in a brutal division, so nothing’s going to be easy as we chase down our goals of winning a divisional title and, hopefully, another sectional title.”

East, which did get in a scrimmage with Orchard Park at Sahlen’s earlier in the preseason, had its two other opportunities to scrimmage prior to Wednesday’s regular season opener with Williamsville South cancelled earlier this week due to poor field conditions. Whether or not Wednesday’s road game even went off – because of the generally sloppy field conditions that come with early spring in Western New York – was not known as The Bee went to press.

If the South game did not take place, the Lady Trojans will attempt once again to begin regular-season play Friday against Williamsville East. The Lady Trojans then begin next week’s slate of games by traveling to Starpoint on Monday.

“We’ve got two phenomenal games right off the bat, so it’s not going to take long for us to figure out what we have in this team,” Sebastian said. “The big thing that we struggled with last year was our hitting – we never got the big hit in the tough spot to push ahead and get some runs – so we’ve been doing a little more hitting against live pitching at an off-site facility this year compared with recent years. Our defense and pitching were great, and should be pretty solid again this year, so we’re definitely looking to emphasize the hitting aspect of things this season.”

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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