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High expectations for inaugural Molloy softball team

Softball in the Queens division of the Catholic High School Athletic Association has taken on a new look this season with the introduction of the Archbishop Molloy Stanners, a team making the jump straight from the junior varsity ‘B’ division to the varsity ‘A’.

Coached by Maureen Rosenbaum and featuring a freshmen-only roster, the team tore through the junior varsity league last year, finishing with a perfect 13-0 record. The brain trust at Molloy opted to go straight to varsity without a single upper classmen, a challenge Rosenbaum and Co. seem ready to tackle.

“I think they are ready,” Rosenbaum said. “We went into the ‘B’ league last year not knowing what we had going in. Most of them have the basic mechanics. They seem to be picking up on things very quickly. To top it all off they get along great.”

Molloy will be led by sophomore pitcher Christina DelMaestro, a windmill hurler Rosenbaum said could be one of the fastest throwers in the borough.

“I would say she’s one of the top pitchers in the league,” said the coach of DelMaestro, who fanned 11 in the team’s league opener against Christ the King last week, an 8-2 victory.

Offensively, the team will be aided by the bat of Kristen Connor, who already has two home runs on the year, including one in the CK win. Shortstop and co-captain with DelMaestro, Nicole Siegel also will be crucial to the team’s success, Rosenbaum said.

Some of the coaches in the league said they expect Molloy to immediately make an impact on the softball scene, though they may not be ready to topple top dogs St. Francis Prep and Mary Louis, who have reigned over Queens the past several years.

For Rosenbaum, she just wants the Stanners to have a decent year and show they can be a factor.

“It’s important to draw new students to the school who are interested in the sport,” Rosenbaum said. “We have to show we can be competitive. I think some people thought it would take longer for us to be established, but we seem to be holding our own.”

St. Francis Prep, which captured the Brooklyn/Queens crown softball championship a season ago with a 4-0 win over Bishop Kearney, again figures to be the team to beat in Queens, even though they have lost key contributor Kritin McEvitt for the season due to injury.

The junior hurler, who shutout Kearney in the B/Q title game a season ago, will be sorely missed by the Terriers and coach Ann Marie Rich, but the team has plenty of other weapons for opponents to deal with.

Karla Grabher likely will be the team’s ace in McEvitt’s absence. She struck out nine in the Prep’s first league win of the season, a 5-1 victory over Stella Maris last week. Valerie Fleck had two singles in the win for the Terriers.

The Mary Louis Academy also is expected to make a run at the borough championship. Steve Contino returns to coach the Hilltoppers after a one-year hiatus, replacing Colleen Jamison one year after his daughter Cassy graduated.

Contino, who is planning to retire from the New York City Police Department, is returning a solid group of players coming off a surprisingly disappointing season. Eight players are back in the fold from last year’s team, ensuring Contino’s return will be successful.

“We’re fairly young,” he said. “I think we’ll work hard., We’re fundamentally sound. I think we’ll be right there at the end. We should be OK. We’re kind of starting from scratch again. I’m happy with that.”

Junior Stephanie Gadziewski will lead the team charge on the mound, along with junior Patricia Glauner. Infielders Jen McGroaty and Jen Flynn will provide solid offense and defense for the team.

The team beat St. Agnes soundly in the season opened last week, but wins will not come as easy against St. Francis, Stella Maris and the top teams from Brooklyn that Contino expects to face in the postseason, including Bishop Kearney, the team that ousted Mary Louis from the playoffs a year ago.

St. Agnes and St. John’s Prep find themselves in similar positions this year, as teams fight for wins in a league rich with talent.

With five freshman in the starting line-up, St. Agnes, coached by Francis Leary, will rely on the play of senior catcher Jill Romagno, sophomore third baseman Stephanie Worko and pitcher/infielder Amanda Galanza, a sophomore transfer from St. Francis Prep.

“Amanda’s going to be good,” said Leary, who does not have the benefit of working with a junior varsity team. “It’s a learning process. If you don’t have the pitching in this league you’re going to get killed. I stress just to do your best. They have a lot of fun.”

Donna Castillo has the same problems across the borough in Astoria at St. John’s Prep. Though she has the entire team returning from last year, the coach, now in her sixth year at the school, is expecting to struggle against the league’s elite teams.

“I like this team,” she said. “I think we should be able to win a few games this year. They’ve been playing together for a few years now and they know each other. We’re out there to win. They know the competition is tough. When you win you have fun.”

The Red Storm’s top players are expected to be shortstop Amy Mascia, freshman pitcher Nicole Lohr and third baseman Elanie Kalandranis.

Christ the King, led by first-year coach Alvena Yurick, and Stella Maris round out the Queens division.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.

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