North Pocono girls ready for another successful season

   If there’s one thing that can be said about the North Pocono softball team this season, it’s that everyone from the coaching staff through the youngest plebe on them is extremely pumped up.

The special blend of seasoned veterans and talented newcomers could easily make this a banner season for the club.

Already committed to play at the collegiate level, Clarion University bound center fielder senior Carissa Giordano is excited for the season.

“I was already psyched for the season back in December when I signed. After we went through winter conditioning and the first week of practice, I’m even more excited. Everyone has been coming in ready to hit it and we’re just all ready to go!”

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Losing just two starters to graduation, the North Pocono gals return with a solid lineup of experienced ladies.

While they closed with a 9-4 record to take the Lackawanna League Division 2 title last spring, they only managed to get seeded fifth in the PIAA District II/XI-5A playoffs.

They upended fourth place Southern Lehigh in the opening round but succumbed to league top-dogs, Abington Heights in the semi-finals.

“Abington is always a good game for us,” said shortstop sophomore Emily Blaine, who led NP last season with 29 hits and 24 runs. “Paupack is always a league rivalry too and we hope we’ll be able to play Pittston Area in the post-season.”

Slinging for the Trojans are a pair of seniors, Courtney Zaic and Nicole Zasada. Zaic made 14 starts and claimed 10 wins while chalking up 86 strikeouts last season.

Zasada put in seven shifts and sent 17 down on strikes getting one win.

“I’m feeling confident,” said Zasada, “Everyone is already expecting us to be good but I think we’re going to better than they think.”

“We’re planning to go as far as we can,” Zaic stated, “Winning the district is our goal, but we want to have a fun season too.”

Senior Kaili Brooks in left, junior Dale Smith at third, and sophomores Miranda McLafferty at second and catcher Madison Destefano round out the familiar faces on the Trojans roster.

Reloading

Two years ago, Smith broke onto the scene with 26 hits and 12 runs, then contributed 19 hits and 18 runs last season.

Blaine showed up last spring and ended up pacing the club at the plate. Safe to say, there’s going to be a continued presence of freshman talent this coming year as well.

Head Coach Mike LaFave dropped more than a few names when talking about the incoming crop of players.

“Alexa Stevens can play defense and hits just as good. Savannah Slater can really swing the bat and the other kids recognize her talent.

“Emma Barnes is an outfielder with good defensive skills, and there’s Parri Salek and Presley Shotto. Both of them can be contributors too,” said LaFave.

“Like the team, I’m a lot more excited this year too. We have two good pitchers, our infield is pretty much back intact, and Slater and Stevens are two freshmen that look promising early.

“I think we have one of the best teams we’ve had in a long time.”

Up Ahead

Depending on which player you ask, you might get a different list of North Pocono rivals.

Unquestionably, though, Abington and Paupack make the list.

While they will face the Comets just once in action at home on April 25, they will square off versus the Buckhorns twice … first at home on April 15 and then away on May 6.

“The division as whole is good,” said Coach LaFave, “Honesdale has gotten better. Paupack is well coached and has always has taletnted players.

“That’s turned into a rivalry because we seem to always split with them in the regular season. Delaware Valley and Western Wayne are well coached too.”

“This looks to be a great season for us,” he added.

“I think the team is as close as it’s ever been and the girls all really have each other’s backs. If someone is having a bad day they try to pick that other girl up and if need be, we have the depth on the bench and in the line-up to move things around.

“We have girls that can play three positions equally well. Our talent level is at the highest its been in years and girls have gelled, which is a huge component.”