EA softball’s top returning hitter still weeks away from playing
There’s no doubt that senior co-captain Christina Wright will be the go-to offensive weapon of choice for East Aurora’s softball team this season — once she’s medically cleared and ready to go, that is.
The fourth-year varsity stalwart and All-ECIC selection last season — after hitting over .520 in 2011 — is still recovering from knee surgery earlier this school year, but coach Dan Edholm fully expects the first baseman to be ready to contribute by the end of April or, at the very latest, the first part of May. In the meantime, Edholm is hoping that the Lady Blue Devils’ plethora of seniors can lead by example and produce on a consistent basis.
Holding down the team’s other two co-captain duties this season are seniors Becky Nolan (shortstop) and Alex Burzynski (pitcher/outfield). Burzynski, a third-year member of the varsity team, was an ECIC Division III Second Team All-star last season who will “probably carry the load on the mound” this year and “is probably our best hitter behind Christina,” according to Edholm. Nolan, meanwhile, “is a great player and a great leader.”
Rounding out East Aurora’s senior contingent this spring are veterans Jenna Ergort (second base), Marissa Dunning (third base), Jessica Vaccare (outfield) and Melissa Goggins (outfield), along with team newcomer Taylor Cole (first base). The rest of the squad is comprised of returning junior Kate Kinsella (pitcher), returning sophomores Karleigh Volk (outfield) and Kristen Danzer (outfield), sophomore newcomer Shelley Grostefan (catcher), and seventh grader Kayla Porter (pitcher/ catcher). Porter is a transfer student from North Carolina.
“Taylor, who’s a lefty, is looking good so far, and Shelley is coming along well behind the plate,” Edholm said. “Kayla is currently nursing a shoulder injury, but she’s really stood out already for us on the mound. She’s still doing well right now as a designated hitter, since she’s not allowed to throw for two weeks. I think if Kayla can stay healthy, we’ll have a good pitcher, even though she’s so young. Actually, when they’re all healthy and all here, we have three nice pitchers.”
East Aurora was able to get in three games prior to this week’s spring break, defeating Pioneer on April 4, 8-7, to split up losses to Maryvale (17-2) on April 2 and Cleveland Hill (8-0) on Thursday.
Burzynski hurled eight strikeouts in picking up the complete game win against Pioneer, and helped her cause by going 4-for-4 at the plate. Pioneer, which took a 3-0 lead off three errors in the top of the first, made things interesting with three more runs in the top of the sixth, but East Aurora — which used a three-run single by Dunning to take a 5-3 lead into the second — held Pioneer runners to just second base in the seventh to preserve the victory.
Things didn’t go nearly as well against the two Cheektowaga teams, though. Porter has East Aurora’s only hit of the game, in the seventh inning, to break up Cleveland Hill’s no-hit bid, and she also had two hits — and threw two innings of relief — against Maryvale. Volk also had two hits, including a triple, against Maryvale.
“As a team, we definitely need to work on our hitting so that we can be more effective at the plate, especially against good pitching,” Edholm said. “We need to play a little better defensively too. When teams are scoring 50 percent of their runs in unearned fashion, it’s not going to make things easy, especially if we’re having trouble scoring more than one or two runs a game.”
East Aurora is scheduled to be busy right away coming off spring break, with games planned against Springville Monday, Cheektowaga Tuesday and Roy-Hart Wednesday. Edholm is hoping that the Lady Blue Devils will have a bit better of an idea as to where everyone best fits in the lineup by then.
“We’re still looking for that right combination for our lineup; our lineup’s looked different every day,” Edholm said. “It’s hard to compete with teams full of girls who play year round when you only have a couple yourself. But, we’re really going to stress our hitting over the break, and on putting more balls in play — including bunting — so that we’re striking out less. We were really stressing the swing mechanics in the gym in March, and we’ll go back to that. But, we’ve got to get healthy more than anything.”