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Lady Knights softball team aiming at return to NCAAs

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Journeying to the Sunshine State in March is an experience most college students remember for a lifetime. But that was not the case when the Queens College softball team traveled to Florida two weeks ago.

In a two-day span, the Knights lost their first five games of the season and were outscored 39-2, including three shutouts and a 21-0 defeat at the hands of nationally ranked Florida Southern.

“We were very intimidated and they blew us out of the water,” Queens College head coach Brian DeMasters said. “Realistica­lly, to me it’s not a disaster to come back without a win. It’s more important to realize what we need to do when we come back home.”

Despite the lopsided losses, DeMasters, in his 15th year at QC, is optimistic about this year’s squad, a relatively young team that returns three seniors and its entire pitching staff from a team that went 27-17 last season (18-5 in NYCAC play) and lost in the first round of the Division II NCAA Regionals.

Due to inclement weather last week, the Knights have not been able to play since March 13. Their home opener and three other games had to be rescheduled.

After playing at Bloomfield College in a doubleheader scheduled for Wednesday, Queens will open its home slate against Dominican this Friday.

With the team’s 0-5 record lingering in each player’s mind for the past two weeks, DeMasters knows how crucial it is to start conference play with a bang.

“Our first eight to 10 games are going to dictate a lot,” DeMasters said. “We have to win more than half of them — 5-5 would be a bad sign.”

The Knights will need to accomplish that task without the help of last season’s most reliable offensive players: Cheryl Cosenzo and Lisa Tropea.

Cosenzo, a third team All-American (the first in the program’s history), led the team in nearly every offensive category as she and Tropea, a transfer from St. John’s, batted third and fourth, solidifying the Knights’ batting order.

“We lost two awesome players,” DeMasters said. “We’re going to need to find some new people.”

He need not look any further than the top of his lineup card, where senior outfielder Jessica Blake is expected to contribute significant speed and numbers this season.

“She’s going to be the spark that lights our fire,” he said. “She’s got to get on base. She’s very fast and if she gets on base she’s going to make a lot of things happen.”

DeMasters said he will also need to count on sophomore catcher Lucy Oswald, a Francis Lewis High School graduate who will step into the clean-up slot after receiving postseason honors last year.

“She’s capable of stepping up and producing big numbers,” DeMasters said.

In a competitive 13-team conference with only six teams advancing to the postseason, DeMasters has high expectations, and making the conference tournament is not the team’s only goal.

Losing to Adelphi in the first round of last year’s NCAAs has left DeMasters & Co. looking for redemption.

“Our primary goal is to make sure we get into the playoffs,” he said. “Above that, I’d like to — if not win the conference — be one of the top two or three to give ourselves a shot at a possible NCAA bid.”

Reach contributing writer Joseph Manniello by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.

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