By Jesse Rosenthal
Returning for her second season as Pierson’s varsity softball coach, Melissa Edwards has high hopes for her Lady Whalers. With a variety of weapons at her disposal both on the field and in the batter’s box and a coaching philosophy rooted in hard work, fundamentals and unity, optimism may end up becoming more of an afterthought than a necessity.
The 2009 Lady Whalers ended their season with a 1-2 series defeat at the hands of longtime conference rivals Port Jefferson in the championship series. Now, the Lady Whalers enter into the 2010 season after graduating eight players total, many of who played vital roles last season; but Edwards remains unfazed.
“Last season is last season, this is a new team with new goals,” she said. “We did lose some key players, but I do believe we are just as strong if not stronger this season.”
If strength and depth are what this team needs to compete in 2010, then it looks as though they are poised for success. They have great bats in Kaci Koehne, Melanie Stafford, Sami James and Lindsey Warne. Natalie Abbene will lead the outfield while Kaci Koehne holds down the infield.
“We should be a threat in all aspects,” said Edwards.
All in all, the Lady Whalers have six returning players (two seniors and four juniors) four juniors new to varsity and six underclassmen. While they are a relatively young team, they have a strong core of leadership, hustle and talent.
Expect big things from Kaci Koehne, Melanie Stafford and Lindsey Warne. Koehne is a threat on both sides of the ball. She has a great bat and a quick glove at shortstop and according to Edwards “is by far the heart and leader of this team.”
Melanie Stafford will the be the Lady Whalers’ ace in the circle this spring. She will carry a majority of the weight, seeing most of the starts. She will be assisted most often by Lindsey Warne who “is really stepping up for the better of the team this season,” according to Edwards. Sami James and 8th grader Annie Osiecki will also see some time on the mound.
With the taste of last year’s defeat washed away by the start of this season, Coach Edwards and the Lady Whalers are looking to stay in the moment.
“We’re not putting any extra emphasis on any one game or a championship,” she said. “We want to go out there every game and give it our all, every defensive play, every at bat and time on the base paths. If we can do this daily, the bigger success will come naturally.”
Although the cards up Edwards’ sleeve are many, and her outlook is positive, she notes that there is always room for improvement.
“We are looking at this season as a progression,” she said. “Each day we want to be better than the day before. If we do that, then big things will happen for us.”
They are taking it day by day, but the goal for this season is clear. Championship.
“We understand that its going to take hard work and communication and we feel that by doing this day in and day out we will get to the championship game and we will be ready.”
Look for tough divisional competition from Port Jefferson (as always) and for possible nailbiters against Hampton Bays.
The Lady Whalers play their third scrimmage this afternoon at home in Mashashimuet Park against East Hampton at 3:30 p.m. The season opener is away at Southold on March, 26 at 4:00 p.m.