EA softball enters spring in rebuilding mode
It’s one of the inevitable aspects of high school sports: rebuilding.
This spring, it’s East Aurora’s softball team’s turn to try and reload following the departure of nine players off a squad that finished 9-10 overall in coach — and program alum — Felicia Hulslander’s first year guiding the squad. And though it’s a daunting task for any team to endure, the Lady Blue Devils are eager to tackle the challenge this season.
“Since we are such a young team, we are constantly learning something new,” Hulslander said. “However, this will be great in the next couple of years as we grow together. The team might be young, but they are the hardest-working group I’ve come across in a while. They truly care about getting better, and every girl is great at being a good teammate. Their attitudes are just what a coach would want them to have.”
The Lady Blue Devils got an early indication as to how tough league play could be this season back on April 3 when they were upended by division newcomer Starpoint in a one-sided affair that marked their first time being outdoors this season.
East Aurora recorded both of its runs in the first inning and got decent hitting overall against solid Starpoint pitching, but the Lady Blue Devils were unable to muster any additional runs after that frame. Starpoint, meanwhile, found ways to cross home plate early and often to coast to the victory.
“Starpoint is most likely going to be one of our toughest league opponents, so it was good to get that one out of the way before break,” Hulslander said. “I’m very excited for the season to really get started. We ended up in a challenging division, but I’m looking forward to the girls winning some of our harder games.”
Sophomore co-captain Peyton Bentley went 3-for-4 at the plate to guide East Aurora offensively, while fellow sophomore Skylar Moffett went 2-for-3. Sophomore Voula Hatzipetros drove in both runs.
Bentley and Moffett both return to the varsity squad after playing there as freshmen, while Hatzipetros is new to the varsity club. Bentley is actually embarking on her third year on varsity, and though she’s been a catcher in the past, Hulslander noted that “she will most likely move around a lot this year because of her versatility.” Moffett could also play a multitude of positions over the course of the season, but Hulslander sees her primary role as being behind the plate.
Hatzipetros, meanwhile, will primarily play third base for the Lady Blue Devils.
“Peyton may be spotted in the outfield the most, but either way, we can always rely on her to get a hit when we need it — like she did just about every time we would rally last year — and I am looking forward to her clutch hitting again this year,” Hulslander said. “Skylar’s hitting has improved over the year, so I’m looking forward to seeing what she can do with her bat this year. And Voula is just a natural athlete who I can see helping the team with her bat and being aggressive in the field.”
The team’s other first-year co-captains this season are junior Erin Sullivan and sophomore Olivia Covington, while fellow junior Taylor Lynch rounds out this year’s contingent of returning players.
Sullivan, a returning ECIC III First Team all-star hurler who is tabbed to be the Lady Blue Devils’ top pitcher this season, also led the squad with her .492 batting average last spring. Covington, who is moving to shortstop from first base, should also be among the team’s leaders at the plate, while Lynch, an outfielder, is poised to take on a greater role with the team this spring.
“Olivia always managed to move runners into scoring position or drive in runs last year, and I’m expecting her to have a great year this season with her transition to short,” Hulslander said. “Taylor’s attitude and hard work from this year and last year will prove she is ready to step up this year, and I look forward to her playing a lot.”
Rounding out this year’s roster are juniors Erin Grundtisch (utility) and Bella Koch (infield), sophomores Maeve Foster (utility), Ashlyn Golding (outfield) and Alyssa Sebastian (first base/outfield), and freshmen Olivia Carr (pitcher/utility), Sofia Dzialga (catcher/utility) and Madison Dziulko (infield/ outfield), all of whom are new to the varsity level.
“Erin and Maeve are two of the hardest-working girls I have on the team, and Maeve also has one of the best attitudes as well,” Hulslander said. “Bella has a lot of natural athletic talent, and Ashlyn is one of the best teammates we have on the field. Sofia is versatile defensively and will be our power hitter at the plate, and Madison will be a threat on the base paths and on defense as the quickest girl on the team.”
East Aurora, which Hulslander said has “improved greatly” in the hitting department since starting to work as a group in March, was scheduled to return to action Tuesday at Pioneer before hosting Depew Wednesday, but information about those contests — including whether or not the weather even allowed for them to be played — was not available at press time.
The Lady Blue Devils are slated to close out their week — weather permitting — by traveling to Maryvale Friday before resuming play Monday at Alden and at Cheektowaga Wednesday.
“This year’s team is almost the complete opposite of last year; we were very vocal and experienced last season, but this group is quiet and still learning,” Hulslander said. “I’m excited to learn with them throughout the year. As a young team, I’m just asking them to give it their all and learn from their mistakes so that we can improve throughout the season.
“We will have to be consistent all around in terms of making the routine plays and getting the bat on the ball,” Huslander continued. “We’re looking to improve on our strikeout percentage and fielding percentage this week in that regard.”