New-Look Yorktown Hopes to Sustain Past Greatness
Host of Teams from Class AA to Class B Hoping to Contend for Section 1 Titles
By Tony Pinciaro
The past two varsity softball seasons, YORKTOWN has been the elite in Section 1 Class AA.
The Cornhuskers have won consecutive Section 1 Class AA championships under former Coach Ryan Iamurri, who stepped down is now an assistant coach at Florida Southwestern.
Yorktown also won back-to-back sectional titles in 2007-08, led by Cassie Reilly-Boccia, who started four years at Alabama, so it’s been a sustained period of greatness for the program.
Coach Samantha Fernandez inherits a quality team even with the graduation of five seniors, four of whom are playing in college: pitcher Erica Salveggi, Reilly Koch (College of St Rose), Brianna Buck (Iona), Courtney Cardea (Hamilton) and Angie Serrano (Molloy)
Fernandez will rely on her three captains – Sam Riccardulli (OF), an all-section pick last year, Kaitlyn Bennett (OF) and Juliana Piehler (IF).
“Sam led the team last year in hitting with 27 hits, batting .475 and only is only a couple hits away from getting her 100th hit,” Fernandez said. “Sam is also an incredible defensive player and has committed zero errors in the outfield. Kaitlyn and her outstanding speed is another great outfielder and hitter. Juliana closes out the captain titles supporting this team with her encouragement and her power at the plate.”
Bella Vano (IF) and Lainie Ornstein (C) complete the returning nucleus.
“Bella, being one of our middle infielders, has great hands and speed. Ornstein is a wall behind the plate as well as a phenomenal hitter with speed.”
Yorktown welcomes five promising newcomers that Fernandez is excited about in junior Bria Moran (C), sophomore Alyssa Buck (P), Olivia Fasce (IF) and Marlaina Cirone (utility), plus freshman Olivia Salveggi (1B).
“Alyssa is a phenomenal hitter with great power as well as will be in the pitching rotation,” Fernandez said. “Olivia is a great defensive player and has great speed around the bases. Bria is a catcher that allows us to have more depth in the infield and behind the plate. Marlaina is another great defensive player that we will be treating as a utility player since her defensive skills are strong anywhere we put her. Olivia is an aggressive first baseman and great power hitter. All of our new additions to varsity will help us big time.”
While Fernandez is optimistic, she also realizes the Cornhuskers will miss the impactful 2018 senior class. Yorktown will also receive every opponent’s best game.
“We graduated some really great talent and leaders and have some big shoes to fill,” Fernandez said. “We will also be dealing with some pressure from being back-to-back section champions. The group of girls we have this year is a special group. Not only is the talent exceptional, the team chemistry is astounding, as well. Our upperclassmen are really great leaders on this team and I am very excited to get games going as we expect another very successful season.”
Fernandez highlighted John Jay-East Fishkill, league-rival Lakeland and Somers as some marquee games.
LAKELAND opened the 2019 preseason without long-time veteran co-coach Joe Chiara, who retired in December. Chiara and fellow co-coach Steve Fallo had guided Lakeland varsity softball for the past 25-plus years.
While Chiara is enjoying retirement, Fallo returns and his assistant coach is one of his former players – Danielle Fiore, an all-section and all-state catcher her senior year (2004). Fiore was the Junior Varsity coach the past few years.
In 2017, Lakeland reached the top of the mountain, winning the Section 1 Class A title. Last year, the Hornets rebounded from an 0-4 start and reached the sectional semifinals, where they lost to eventual champion, Ardsley, which is now in Class B this season.
Lakeland will be strong in the circle with senior Claire Fon and junior Krystal Badillo, both all-section choices last year, back. Fon will attend Adelphi in the fall and continue playing softball.
“Both bring a great deal of experience and leadership to our team,” Fallo said. “Both played for us as eighth-graders.”
Fallo said Lakeland returns nine of the 10 players who contributed to the success of last year’s team.
Senior C Amber Lopez will form the other half of the battery and classmate Emily McGrath will roam the outfield. Junior Amanda DiClerico, who missed last year with an injury, will return to first base. Classmates Hannah Matusiak (OF), Sophia Portante (3B), Emma Walsh (OF), Sabrina Reichelt (OF) and Selina Bernat (OF) also return.
“Our expectations are high,” Fallo said. “We feel we have a team that can compete for the Section 1 title. Our experience and remembering the poor start we had last year will help us be ready.”
Lakeland mercied Peekskill, in five innings, to open the season.
Badillo had five hits, including a home run, and drove in seven runs. Bernat also crushed a home run and finished with four RBI. Ava Knopf and Fon each drove in three runs.
SOMERS is quietly becoming a rising power in Section 1. The last two years, the Tuskers, who went 13-7 in 2018, have qualified for sectionals boasting a high-powered offense. Third-year Coach Dave Scagnelli will miss graduated seniors Jill Carlisto and Kelsey Lavin, but Somers does return one of Section 1’s elite players in senior and C Gabby Mazzotta. She is twice an all-section selection and will attend Manhattan College this fall and play softball.
Mazzotta is not the only senior returning. She is joined by talented classmates Karly Moscarello (SS), Jazmyn Colon (OF), Nikki Fiorino (3B), Tori Pagliaro (1B/OF), Amanda Polito (OF) and Sabrina Balfe (OF). Juniors Sarah Murphy (P) and Vicky MeEvoy (2B) and sophomore Hannah Recine (OF) also comprise the returnees.
With a deep, talented nucleus back, there were not many spots remaining but two juniors and two freshmen join varsity.
Lauren Canavan (2B) and Jessica McSweeney (C/1B) are the juniors and Juliana Bockhaus (1B/OF) and Emily Stavola (P) are the freshmen.
“We have seven returning starters, all with at least three years playing on the varsity,” Scagnelli said. “We want to improve upon last year’s success, and be competitive against the top teams in our league.”
Somers is in the same league with Lakeland, Yorktown and Walter Panas so the Tuskers have six tough games with these three opponents.
Since Rena Finsmith became the PUTNAM VALLEY coach, the Tigers progressively have become a sectional contender. What makes this incredible is Putnam Valley has accomplished this without a Junior Varsity team. Even though the Tigers are without a JV team, once again, they will be among the top teams in Class B, once again.
Putnam Valley, which went 15-6 and won a first-round sectional game, has nine returning players, led by the senior trio of Sophia Lord (3B), Gianna D’Addona (OF) and Sonya Garcia (OF).
The Waters’ sisters, Keiko (OF) and Alex (C), are back as is classmate Sabrina Cross (1B). Sophomore windmiller Emily McKenna, an All-Section choice and the league pitcher of the year, is back in the circle. She is joined by fellow sophomores Frankie Reyes (SS) and Kathleen Gallello.
Lord, Keiko Waters, McKenna and Reyes were All-League selections. Sophomore Abby Lowder (IF) joins varsity this season.
“Returning all of our starters and their experience playing together will be our strength,” said Finsmith, a former Pleasantville softball standout for Coach Gina Perino. “I am excited to see what we can accomplish this year. Our schedule is going to challenge us, but I am looking forward to seeing the girls step up their game and compete at the highest level they can.”
Finsmith pointed out Putnam Valley will be playing in the annual James “Ace” Morabito Tournament in Herkimer (NY), May 3-5. The Morabito draws many of New York’s elite teams. Putnam Valley will be joined by annual Class A power Pearl River, 2018 Section 1 Class A champion Ardsley (which is competing in Class B this season) and Hastings. Putnam Valley will play Ardsley and 2018 Section 1 Class B champion Westlake this season.
Playing in a league with Brewster, Yorktown and Lakeland, it’s easy to understand how WALTER PANAS is often overlooked. That might change in 2019 as the Panthers return 11 players, including eight starters for Coach Dale Chappelle. Panas finished 12-9 last year and lost in the sectional section round to eventual Class A champion Ardsley.
Seven of the 11 returnees are seniors, led by Bella Feraca (2B). Chosen All-Section HM last year, Feraca will attend the University of Rochester in the fall and play softball.
The super-seven senior group also includes Gianna Servedio (1B), Jenna Guevarez (OF), Brianna Viola (OF), Tahari Williams (OF), Lexi Lorino (OF) and Sam Mills (utility). Servedio will attend Hunter College in the fall and play softball.
Junior and 2018 All-Section pick Julia Petrovich (SS) has verbally committed to attend Fordham and play softball. Classmate Kat Reynoso (C) is fresh off a successful girls’ basketball season as the Panthers advanced to the sectional final four. Rae Valt (3B) is back as is sophomore Olivia Bordenaro (P).
Even with 11 returneees, four new players are moving up to varsity – juniors Alexa Fisher (OF), McKayla Peters (IF) and Arianna Smith (OF), and freshman Jamie Cardello (utility).
“The 2019 Panthers are battle-tested and experienced,” Chappelle said. “After winning 12 games last year against a very tough schedule, they are poised to take the next step as a formidable opponent in Section 1. Loaded with seniors and excellent talent all over the field, this team has high aspirations for this season.”
Along with what Chappelle termed a ‘brutally-tough’ league schedule, Panas will also play perennial powers Mahopac, led by pitcher Shannon Becker, Harrison and Our Lady of Lourdes.
The 2018 season was an aberration for BREWSTER.
A perennial Section 1 Class A power, sectional semifinalist and/or finalist, the Bears finished below .500 and had only eight wins, both firsts in Coach Lisa Delzio’s 10 years. To compound matters, Taylor Ricciardi (playing at Geneseo), Francesca Cioffi (playing at Roger Williams) and Karen Lennox, all starters, graduated, and Brewster does not have a Junior Varsity team this year.
Delzio, who is 165-56 in her career, six returnees highlighted by senior Caroline Cherubini (CF) and junior Madison Chiudina (3B/LF).
“Caroline has incredible range and one of the best arms in the section,” Delzio said. “She is a competitor and extremely talented softball player who leads by example every day at practice. Madison is a three-year varsity player who I expect a breakout year from. Madison has worked extremely hard since last year, improving both her offense and defense. She has incredible power at the plate and is one of the hardest-working athletes I’ve had the pleasure of coaching. Madison is our vocal leader and understands what it takes to win.”
Senior Elly Keefe and juniors Gabbi Dovi, Angie Gasparre and Michelle Marotta also return to the starting lineup.
“The varsity experience of Caroline and Madison is one of our strengths,” Delzio said. “They understand what needs to be done in order to win in our league. Our overall team speed is very good — one of the best we’ve had since 2012 — and our defense will be solid. The team has a great attitude and a never give up mentality.”
Pitching has long been a Brewster tradition. However, this year, Delzio said the Bears will be going with a pitching committee until their No. 1 windmiller returns from a minor injury. Even though the Bears did not have a typical Brewster season, Delzio witnessed a rebirth the last few weeks.
“The team got stronger and stronger as the season went on and we finished with three wins against three excellent teams –Mahopac, Somers and John Jay Cross River,” Delzio said. “This year that “never quit” mentality has gotten even stronger and I’m looking forward to the start of the season. The girls have worked extremely hard every day at practice and I am so proud of their effort. They are a great group of young ladies and wonderful to coach. I am confident that their efforts will result in a winning season. We have five freshman that are eager and hungry to play and win, which along with our seasoned upperclassmen will make for an exciting year.”
Brandon Johanson did not get much of a break between seasons.
Following his first year as the CARMEL varsity girls’ basketball coach, Johanson has moved up to the varsity softball top job.
Johanson inherits a team that went 8-14 in 2018 and graduated five starters. Despite the graduation departures, the cupboard is not bare and Johanson is familiar with the players being the former Junior Varsity coach.
Ten players are back led by seven seniors – Juliana Nacinovich (first base), Kayla Maguire (outfield), Libby Corry (outfield), Alyssa Fregosi (second base), Amanda Long (second base/third base), Annalena Fusco (catcher) and Erin Rangel (shortstop/first base).
Juniors Kaitlyn Belmont (second base) and Kaitlyn Dean (pitcher) and sophomore Meaghan Connors (catcher/outfield) complete the core 10.
“I am very pleased, so far, with the progress of this team,” Johanson said. “They come to work everyday, and have a strong desire to succeed. I think our program is headed in the right direction, and we are working to improve everyday.”
Carmel is in a league with archrival Mahopac as well as perennial Dutchess County powers, Arlington, John Jay-East Fishkill and R.C. Ketcham.
MAHOPAC boasts one of the region’s top batteries in All-NYS ace Shannon Becker and C Michelle DellaMura. Becker, a sophomore who has amassed 419 strikeouts in a shade over two seasons, can be unhittable at times. Former Coach Amanda Gambacorta has turned the reins over to Christina Giansante, but the transition should be smooth as she was with the program the past several years as an assistant. The Indians are 2-0 currently with shutouts wins over Somers and Fox Lane.
Softball coaches are encouraged to contact beat writer Tony Pinciaro at firstname.lastname@example.org for inclusion in our Softball Notebook.