Lakeland Improving; White Plains Cruising; Valhalla Moving

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by Tony Pinciaro
Hendrick Hudson slugger Ja’nae Walker is mobbed by Sailors at the plate after homering in 8-2 win.

There had been one constant with LAKELAND softball the past 30 years – highly-respected and distinguished Coach Steve Fallo.

Fallo guided the program to outstanding success as the Hornets were among the Section 1 elite. However, Fallo decided to retire from the diamond following the 2023 season, leaving the players to wonder who their coach would be.

Senior and captain Amanda Cohen and her teammates did not have to look far as varsity assistant and former Lakeland softball/field hockey great Danielle Fiore was chosen to succeed Fallo, also her coach.

As a result of Fiore’s work as an assistant, the transition to her was smooth. This has led to a young team finishing the regular season, 10-10, and qualifying for the Section 1 Class A Softball Championships.

The seeding meeting for the six classes was held Monday morning. Sectional play will begin, in certain classes, later this week.

“We really enjoyed how easily we could relate to Coach Fiore as she also played under Coach Fallo at Lakeland,” said Cohen, a four-year starter, the last two at shortstop. “Her time at Lakeland allowed us to connect with her beyond that of a coach, and as someone who’d been in our position.”

Fiore was an outstanding two-way catcher for Fallo. She was lethal with the aluminum and was just as excellent defensively whether it was calling a game, framing pitches or throwing out attempted base stealers with her arm. This led to Fiore receiving all-section and all-state honors.

“We are completely aware of Coach Fiore’s incredible talent throughout her high school career, along with her athletic ability as she was a multi-sport athlete,” Cohen said.

Fiore was also an all-section and all-state field hockey player. She and fellow captain Andi Cioro led a young Lakeland team (with four freshmen – Melissa Gonzalez, Kara Connolly, Amy Voelkel and Rebecca DiSisto) to the 2003 New York State Class A title. Fiore scored both goals, on penalty corners, in the championship game and was named most valuable player.

Pleasantville shortstop Lexi Tomaselli tries to turn two as Valhalla’s Jessica Olenchak slides in at 2B in Panthers’ 6-5 loss to host Vikings Wednesday.

Even though Fiore is the new coach, Lakeland’s softball philosophy has not changed.

“Coach Fallo coached me and I coached under him so having been a player and an assistant the lessons he taught me are invaluable,” said Fiore, who has also coached Junior Varsity field hockey at Lakeland. “I may do things differently as I cut my teeth as head coach, but what he taught me will always be part of this program as long as I’m here.

“I think any time you walk in someone’s shoes who has been here for almost three decades, you get an idea of preparation. Preparation is what it takes to win.”

Lakeland has matured in the second half of the season. After dropping games to Hen Hud and John Jay-Cross River to open last week, the Hornets beat Scarsdale and Mahopac to even their record.

Cohen credited Fiore with creating a unique bonding aspect to practice.

“Coach Fiore has certainly committed a ton of time and effort into our young team,” said Cohen, who will be attending the CUNY School Of Medicine’s Sophie Davis BS/MD Program in September and will be studying Biomedical Sciences. “I’d say the most notably new aspect would be Coach Fiore bringing a gong to our practices that we can ring each time we make a good play or get a nice hit. The gong has boosted our team’s camaraderie and made us a more competitive force.

The Vikings’ Abigail Zambrano celebrates after scoring the winning run on Ava Keriazis’ walkoff hit in 6-5 win over Pleasantville Wednesday.

“As a young team, we definitely have some room to grow, but everyone’s dedication and hard work is certainly paying off. We’re all really good at picking each other back up and feeding off one another’s energy which has been super fun to be a part of.”

What has also made Fiore easy to relate for her players is her openness. Fiore kept her career accomplishments under wraps and chose to focus on what today’s female student-athletes need from their coach.

“I mentioned in an interview before the season that I walked these hallways,” Fiore said. “Some of the same teachers are still teaching here. I use that to relate to my girls. To let them know that not only did I go through the athletic aspect of it, but the growing-up part, too. I’m always here if they need me.”

Liliana Aguirre led Lakeland with two hits and two RBI against Hen Hud. She also had two hits against John Jay-Cross River.

Nicole Mautone did it with her bat and arm in a 16-5 victory over Scarsdale. Mautone collected four hits, including a home run and two RBI, to get the win. Aguirre added three hits.

Maddie Panos had two hits and two RBI, Emily Yazzetti also had two hits and drove in a run and Mautone registered six strikeouts in a 7-3 win over Mahopac to close out the regular season.

WHITE PLAINS is right where it wants to be as the Section 1 Class AAA Softball Championships commence this week. The Tigers took two from Ossining to close out the regular season 19-1 and in line for a top-two seed. The Section 1 Softball Championships seeding meeting was held Monday.

“I think we have shown great consistency throughout the majority of our games,” said junior and captain Ava Galligani. “Especially later in the season as we’ve had time to come together as a team. We’ve done a great job of putting up runs early and having the defense back it up.”

The Tigers enter sectionals with unfinished business. The previous two years, North Rockland and pitcher Delaney McGovern (now playing at Tampa University) beat the Tigers in the sectional final. Those two disheartening losses made White Plains mentally tougher.

“Coming up short in the previous two Section 1 championship games has allowed us to reflect on our prior performances and use it as motivation to move forward and correct any mistakes as well as adjusting our approach in an effort at allowing us to execute at a higher level to achieve a positive result. It has definitely strengthened us and prepared us mentally to get over the hump.”

Hendrick Hudson slugger Ja’nae Walker admires her no-doubt-about-it homer in the Sailors’ 8-2 win over host Fox Lane Thursday.

Galligani homered and drove in four runs in the 14-0 win over OSSINING. Madison DeLarosa added three hits, two runs and an RBI. Gianna McMahon and Emily Anastacio finished with two hits and two RBI apiece and Lily Onorato twirled a four-hitter and also drove in two runs.

In the 13-0 victory, Neela Older had all threes – hits, RBI and runs. Alexis Tighe also had three hits and plated two runs and DeLarosa collected three hits, two runs and an RBI. Galligani homered among her two hits and drove in three, Onorato went yard and Ava Ritterman had two RBI.

VALHALLA concluded the regular season with a combination of offensive fireworks and Tanner Smith dominating in the circle. The Vikings (13-7), winners of four straight, swept Pleasantville and outscored Briarcliff, Blind Brook and Westlake, 34-3, and Smith cranked out 50 strikeouts.

Smith opened with a 13-strikeout performance against Briarcliff. Keira DiNatale and Smith led a balanced offense with two hits apiece. Smith was the star on Senior Day with a season-high 19 strikeouts and shutout over Blind Brook. Emily Blume finished with four hits, Sangeeta Bahl added three hits and Victoria Bencivengo had two hits.

The supreme week for Smith closed with 18 strikeouts and a second consecutive shutout, this one of Westlake. Smith also went 3 for 3. DiNatale collected two hits and had three RBI. Julia Mack had a bases-loaded double.

HEN HUD closed out the regular season with three wins in four games. The Morley sisters – Emma (three) and Keira (two) – combined for five hits and Emma Morley drove in two runs. Angelina Carbone added two hits and a RBI and winning pitcher Emma Barbelet had a run-scoring triple.

Barbelet tossed a one-hitter and rang up 12 strikeouts in a 5-1 win over Saunders. She also drilled a solo home run. Ja’nae Walker also homered and knocked in two runs and Carbone had a team-best three hits and RBI.

Barbelet hit double digits in strikeouts – 11 – for a second consecutive game in an 8-2 win over Fox Lane, 8-2.  Walker also smacked a home run for the second game in-a-row. Keira Morley and Barbelet added run-scoring singles.

Hen Hud dropped a 2-1 decision to Somers as Barbelet did not allow an earned run and struck out five. Somers (11-5) has won seven of the last eight and looks the part of a Class AA title challenger.

Hen Hud IF Morley Kiely tries to get put-out on Fox Lane’s Jojo Kerwar in Sailors’ 8-2 win over host Foxes Thursday.

CARMEL closed out a grueling stretch of games with wins over Mamaroneck (6-5), Hastings (13-0) and Suffern (5-0). Lily Madio had a team-best three hits and Kylie Murphy added two doubles against Mamaroneck.

Olivia Frick allowed two hits and struck out seven in five innings against Hastings. She was buoyed by Murphy, who tripled and homered, and Keira Curley added two hits.

Frick registered her second straight shutout, against Suffern, on a six-hitter with five strikeouts.

Murphy hit two home runs, drove in three runs and scored three runs. Deirdre Curley collected three hits, including a solo home run.

FOX LANE rolled through its first three opponents – Lincoln (11-0), Ossining (9-4) and Lincoln (14-1), again, but Hen Hud halted the Foxes’ run with an 8-2 win to cap the week.

Gabby Naar fueled the offense with two doubles, a home run, three RBI and two runs scored. Victoria Bodine also had three hits, all doubles, scored twice and drove in a run. Taylor Reilling added two hits and two RBI and Sienna Greco also had two and knocked in a run.

Grace Cleveland wielded the aluminum against Ossining with three hits and three RBI. Sofia Valente and Greco finished with two hits apiece and an RBI and Jordana Kerwar had two hits, scored two runs and had an RBI.

Val DeLuca led the hit parade in the sweep of Lincoln. She had three hits and scored three runs. Naar homered among her two hits, scored twice and drove in three runs and Greco and Cleveland each had two hits and scored two runs.

Cleveland and Kerwar had two hits apiece against Hen Hud and Cleveland and Naar had RBI.

Fox Lane IF Sofia Valente makes great play from deep in SS hole in Foxes’ 8-2 loss to host Hen Hud Thursday.

CROTON had a busy last week of the regular season, splitting four games. The Tigers opened with a 12-9 win over Croton as winning pitcher Erin Baumeister went 5 for 5 with two RBI. Ellie Friedman, Natalie Barillaro, Sophia Misiti and Ashlyn Goldberg each had three hits apiece. Misiti homered among her three hits.

Barillaro was the bright spot, going 4 for 4, including a home run, in a loss to Pawling.

Friedman fell one hit short (home run) of the cycle in a 9-4 win over Sleepy Hollow. Charley Benjamin-Eichenberg collected four singles and two stolen bases.

North Salem handed Croton a 9-6 defeat despite three hits apiece from Solids (two RBI) and Barillaro. Baumeister, Misiti and Benjamin-Eichenberg each delivered two hits.

YORKTOWN began its week with a big win over Byram Hills (21-9), but lost to the John Jays – Cross River and East Fishkill. The Cornhuskers concluded the regular season with a 10-10 record.

Winning pitcher Kate Brown had a huge day at the plate against Byram Hills, going 4 for 4 with seven RBI. Ava Huffman went 3 for 3 and knocked in five runs and Alicia Cinicola added two hits, two RBI and two runs scored. Eva Destito had two hits, scored three runs and drove in two runs and Gigi Bjerke scored three runs and had two RBI.

Alyssa McEniry had two hits against John Jay-East Fishkill and Bjerke collected two hits and a stolen base against John Jay-Cross River.

PANAS closed out the regular season with a 13-7 victory over Putnam Valley and a 3-2 loss to Brewster.

Natalie Porter had a big game against Putnam Valley with two hits, including a home run, three RBI and two runs scored.

Lillian Tomlinson also had two hits, swiped two bases and came home three times. Panas Coach Mike Dillon cited Tomlinson with making two huge catches in center field. Winning pitcher Breanna Barry helped herself with two RBI.

Madi Duteau had two hits and drove in Panas’ runs against Brewster. Natalie Porter finished with two hits and pitcher Maddie Malfant had a one-hitter.



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