It would be a slight understatement to say that the Eastport South Manor softball team had a surprising campaign last spring.
Despite having only one senior and just four players boasting at least two years of varsity experience, the Lady Sharks finished with a 17-3 overall record en route to winning a share of the League V title with Islip. ESM then went on to win its opening round Class AA playoff game over Smithtown East before falling to Bay Shore in the quarterfinals.
Since then, only one player—Michelle Amendola—has graduated, meaning that almost the entire team is returning this spring with a year of experience at the varsity level. Not hurting their chances to repeat is the fact that ESM is back down in Class A this season, meaning that the future could be very bright for the Lady Sharks.
“At the very least, we expect or hope to make the playoffs and stay healthy and strong all season,” ESM head coach Laura Ward said. “We’d like to surpass how long we made it in the playoffs last year.”
All-County player Dana Taglioni, now a senior, will be returning to lead the team along with All-Division junior Nina Gaita, Joining them will be All-League sophomore Jackie Chester and All-Division player and League V Rookie of the Year Marissa Rizzi, who is just a freshman. Taglioni will start at shortstop, Gaita will roam the outfield and Chester will remain at third base. Rizzi will continue to be one of the many starting pitching options for ESM and also play first base.
Juniors Amanda Rose and Sam Vosper are also returning to the team, as is sophomore Hope Brenkert and freshman starting catcher Christina Rizzi. Also returning is freshman Kailah Konkel, who fractured her collarbone and separated her shoulder in the quarterfinal loss at Bay Shore last season. Ward said Konkel is back to full strength and ready to be a super utility player, having the ability to play almost every position on the field.
Ward has called up a handful of players from the junior varsity who will add depth to the team. Juniors Kyra Newcombe and Kaitlyn Shire are joining the squad, as are sophomore Stephanie Ogeka, freshman Daniela Detore and eighth-grader Brianna Williams. Senior Maeve Dowd, who transferred from Sachem East High School, will be an outfielder.
“We have a lot of options in pitching and we’ll certainly be using that to our advantage,” Ward said. “We also have our entire outfield returning and they’re now all experienced.
“A strength is our offense,” she added. “I can already see that they’re going to be aggressive and we have a lot of strong hitters.”
Islip and Kings Park should be competitive teams in League V this season while Bellport, Comsewogue, Harborfields and Huntington will all be in the league again this season. ESM will play crossover games against the following League VI teams: East Hampton, Elwood/John Glenn, Miller Place, Mount Sinai, Rocky Point, Sayville and cross-town rival Westhampton Beach.
The Lady Sharks will start their season on Wednesday, March 27, at Comsewogue at 4 p.m.