June 20, 2018

Going With Youth Movement by Necessity, PDS Softball Laying Foundation for Future

CONTACT HITTER: Princeton Day School softball player Julie Patterson makes contact in a game this spring. Junior catcher Patterson starred at the plate and in the field for PDS, who posted a final record of 1-9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

For the Princeton Day School softball team, defeating Peddie in early April provided a glimpse of its potential.

“It is the absolute highlight,” said PDS head coach Paul Lano, reflecting on the 21-13 triumph over the Falcons.

“Last year they threw their D-I prospect at us and blanked us 20-0 in three innings at their place. It was really no fun whatsoever. That was an absolute surprise, I never  saw that coming.”

PDS, though, didn’t have a lot of highlights over the rest of the spring as it ended up with a 1-9 record.

In assessing the season, Lano acknowledged that the lack of seniors on the roster this year left a void.

“It was a difficult season, not having having that interior built-in in leadership that comes from seniors,” said Lano.

“Whether they are stars or not, seniors have the effect. Every player who ascends to their senior year just seems to embrace the opportunity to be in charge.”

The Panthers did get leadership and production from junior catcher Julie Patterson.

“Julie was the ballplayer with the most experience,” said Lano.

“She had the most ability and she was pretty much our best player and hitter. She was the one who held the pitching together; she was able to guide the pitchers.”

The team’s two pitchers, junior Brooke Smukler and sophomore Gia Massari, gained valuable experience in the circle.

“Brooke throws hard, she doesn’t exactly know where it is going all of the time,” said Lano.

“She was going to be able to give us what we needed. I needed someone to get in there and eat up innings and try to get some outs. I could always bring in Gia. She scrapped together some pitching skills and getting something she could take to the circle. It was good to know that we had her for relief.”

It was good for Lano to see junior Hailey Young blossom into a key player and team leader this spring.

“Hailey is a silent one; she doesn’t say much unless she is asked or she absolutely has something to say,” said Lano.

“She is also a hard worker. She really proved herself in being the first one out to practice every day. She would get the equipment prepared and ready for me for my arrival. She took on a new role; she became the lead center fielder because of her speed. She allowed herself to slap hit and bunt from the left side for the first time ever.”

A first-year player, sophomore Brianna Astbury, a soccer star in the fall, gave the Panthers a lift.

“Brianna has been great; she played shortstop a couple of games,” said Lano, noting that he got good contributions from each of his three freshmen Gianna Gasparro, Abigail Weinstein, and Jillian Wexler along with juniors Elisabeth Berman and Guilia Gerschel. “She is a very promising player for having never played before.”

Looking ahead, Lano promises to keep pushing his players to get the most out of their ability.

“I would certainly love to have more pitching,” said Lano. “I am doing the best I can with what I have got.”