Pitching and defense will be key for MCS softball team
By John Bernhardt
With a blanket of snow covering the ground and temperatures that rarely move above the freezing level, it takes forward vision to play and coach high school softball or baseball in the Catskills.
Unlike soccer in the fall or basketball in the winter, spring sport athletes prepare to play their sport of choice in a secondary venue. Sometimes the first time a local high school baseball or softball team will step on their outdoor diamond is Opening Day, the first time they compete in a game that season.
Against those odds, players and coaches are working creatively to hone playing skills and simulate game scenarios in a gymnasium setting. With one cold day heaped upon another, it can be challenging to harness and maintain intensity and focus. Even so, local softball and baseball teams are working hard against a future promise of taking their game outdoors.
After more than a decade assisting the girls’ softball program, Kyle Holden will be handling head coaching duties in Margaretville this spring, replacing Bill Lonecke who retired after last season.
“We lost key players at several critical positions; pitcher, catcher, second base, and shortstop,” explained Holden when describing his squad, “but we have enough good athletes to be competitive.”
As Holden sees it, the blueprint for Blue Devil softball success is pretty simple.
“Number one, our pitchers have to throw strikes. That’s critical. Next, our defense is the key. I’m confident we have enough athletes to make defensive plays,” he noted.
Holden will be looking to three sophomores to throw those strikes from the pitcher’s mound. All three played at the modified level last spring. Ana Endaya in the biggest piece to Holden’s pitching scheme this preseason. Endaya is the most seasoned of the Blue Devils’ pitching core with the fastest ball to home plate.
But, Holden is counting on plenty of help on the mound from Hailee Hunter and Shannon Fairbairn. Like it is with each of Holden’s pitchers, Hunter is focused on throwing strikes. The sophomore hurler has natural movement on her fastball and is working hard to smooth out her delivery. Fairbairn has never pitched but is picking up the mechanics quickly and gaining speed and accuracy. With her strong arm, Fairbairn could see action in left field or play as the backup third baseman.
Holden does return some experience on his roster. Senior Cecilia Galatioto returns as the team’s first baseman. Galatioto flashed an excellent glove around first base and has good pop in the bat at the plate. Holden is pleased with the leadership role Galatioto is taking with the younger girls on the squad.
Another senior, Katie Short, returns to man the hot corner at third base. Short has a good glove and strong arm on the defensive side of the field and gets the bat on the ball consistently at the plate.
Three juniors return from last year’s squad. Great speed allows Elia Tanzer to cover a lot of defensive ground making her an anchor in the outfield in centerfield. Tanzer adapted well to the central outfield spot last spring and is working hard on improving her throwing skills this spring. The junior speedster is incredibly quick on the bases.
Last year’s left fielder, Cora Bruno, is working out at shortstop this year. Holden is impressed with Bruno’s infield potential.
“Cora shows a lot of promise at short. She has soft hands and good range in the infield,” Holden explained. The Margaretville skipper also likes the pop in Bruno’s bat.
A right fielder in 2013, Kim Fairbairn is concentrating on attaining backstop skills as the catcher this year. Fairbairn has a good batting eye and puts the ball in play.
“Kim has some big hits for us last year,” praised Holden.
A sophomore, Carly Shultis, will be handling duties at second base this season. Shultis has impressed her coach with her ability to stay down on the ball in the infield, keeping the ball in front of her and making the play at first base.
A pair of sophomores round out the Margaretville squad. Renee Short is spending time learning outfield skills. Holden likes Short’s bat. The Blue Devils coach is pleased with his sophomore outfielder’s short, quick swing. Anna Aulino didn’t play last season and is working hard playing catch-up this spring. “Anna is very athletic and shows a lot of promise,” noted Holden. Holden is working Aulino in both the infield and outfield.
“We have a little bit of speed and a little bit of pop,” stressed Holden when describing his team. We should swing at strikes and be aggressive on the base paths.”
Holden hopes if everything falls into place his team can be competitive with the Delaware League’s Upper Division champion Windham.
“Windham should be strong, and I’ve heard Hunter has an emerging pitcher,” said Holden.
Holden predicts the Mountain Division could become a two-team chase with Roxbury and Gilboa battling for the top slot with Downsville trailing close behind.