Weekly Feature



2018-04-11 / Sports

East softball taking one game at a time approach

Team reached program’s first state final last year
PATRICK NAGY
Sports Reporter


Williamsville East’s Grace Pogorzala lays down a sacrifice bunt during the Lady Flames’ 2-1 win in 10 innings over Olean in last year’s overall Section VI Class A final. Pogorzala is a returning three-year starting catcher. 
File photo by Jake French Williamsville East’s Grace Pogorzala lays down a sacrifice bunt during the Lady Flames’ 2-1 win in 10 innings over Olean in last year’s overall Section VI Class A final. Pogorzala is a returning three-year starting catcher. File photo by Jake French Williamsville East’s softball team came as close as possible to winning a state title last year, losing to Maine-Endwell, 1-0, in the Class A New York State Public High School Athletic Association final.

With nine players and six starters returning from last year’s 19-4 squad, it’s quite possible that the Lady Flames could be in for another deep postseason run, but coach Chris Durr’s focus is on taking a one-game-at-a-time approach.

“Going into last season, I knew that we would be good and competitive, but I don’t think anyone thought that we would go to the state championship,” Durr said. “We never had a goal of going to states. It’s a nice goal to have, but there is so much that can happen in a season that we are not going to talk about that. We are going to take it one game at a time.”

East is led by senior captain Veronica Zimmerman (four-year starter at third base), and junior captains Christy Mack (five-year starter at shortstop) and Rachel Steffan (three-year starter at second base), who have combined for 12 years of varsity experience.

“They are leaders in every aspect of the game,” Durr said. “Christy and Rachel were our two best hitters last year, and Veronica has good leadership skills. We are looking for big years from all three of them.”

Mack is a returning First Team All-State, All-Western New York, All-ECIC Division I/II, ECIC II and All-Bee all-star, as well as the reigning ECIC Division II Player of the Year.

Last year Mack led a potent East offense in RBIs (33), slugging percentage (.817), doubles (9), home runs (5), and tied for the lead in triples (2). She was second in batting average (.476) and runs scored (29). Sixteen of her 39 hits were for extra bases.

Steffan, also a First Team All-WNY, All-ECIC I/II and ECIC II all-star, and a Second Team All-State selection, led East in batting average (.477) and total hits (41), tied for second on the team in RBIs (28), doubles (7) and triples (2), and finished third in home runs (3). She only struck out six times in 92 plate appearances.

Zimmerman, a four-year starter and returning ECIC II Second Team all-star, has been the team’s leadoff hitter since her freshman year. She had a team-high 34 singles last year, to go along with a .402 batting average and 16 RBIs.

Zimmerman is one of three seniors on the roster. The other two seniors on the roster are Madison Kozlowski (outfield/second base) and Maddi Lawida (catcher/outfield).

Other returning juniors besides Mack and Steffan include Maddy Miske (three-year starter at right field/first base), Grace Pogorzala (three-year starting catcher), and Cara Leone, East’s only returning pitcher.

In 25 1/3 innings over eight games last year, Leone finished with a 3-0 record, recorded a 3.0 ERA and struck out 21 batters.

“Our question mark is going to be pitching,” Durr said. “Even though Cara is a junior, she is young at that position. We have to do a good job behind our pitchers, play good defense and limit errors.”

Freshman catcher/outfielder Abbie Stellrecht is a returning Second Team ECIC II and All-Bee all-star who batted .449, recorded 20 RBIs and only struck out three times in 94 plate appearances.

Coming up from the JV are juniors Madelyn Lane (second base/outfield) and Victoria Willick, sophomore Chelsea McNamara (shortstop/ outfield) and Kayla Terwilliger (shortstop/third base/outfield), and freshman Summer Clark (pitcher/first base).

An early team strength Durr has liked is that his players are capable of playing multiple positions.

“If they are hitting the ball or playing good defense, they are going to be getting in the lineup,” he said.

East has also been able to practice and have two scrimmages on its new turf field.

“It’s an amazing facility,” Durr said. “We would have not had scrimmages or been outside without the turf.”

Durr has two new assistant coaches, Sam Weaver, a 2013 East graduate, and Adam Meyer. Katie Gruarin is the new JV coach.

East hosts Starpoint at 7 p.m. on Wednesday and travels to West Seneca East at 4:45 p.m. Friday.

East will also be the host site for the Gerry Gentner “Just Show Up” Memorial Tournament on Saturday, April 21.

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