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Published: April 07, 2009 11:52 pm   

HS SOFTBALL PREVIEW: Pitching will keep Vikings near top of the NFL

By Nate Beutel
Niagara Gazette

GRAND ISLAND — Pat Lester says he’s been building a mentality within his program for the past two years. Ask his players and you’ll find out exactly what that mentality is all about.

“We’re ready to compete with anyone,” senior pitcher Emily Thompson said. “We expect to be better all the time.”

“We have someone to go to in every situation,” senior first baseman Leanna Kozlowski said. “We can play with any team in our league.”

That’s music to Lester’s ears.

“We’re expecting to win now,” the third-year coach said. “Every time we step on the field, we’re confident that we can win.”

A big reason for that confidence this spring is the Vikings’ one-two pitching punch of Thompson and Sam Tilkins. Lester called the right-handed duo “phenomenal.”

“We’re ready to share the spotlight,” said Thompson, who was the Vikings’ ace last season. “It’s going to be a lot of fun to pitch with Sam.”

Junior Casey Sumner will catch for Thompson and Tilkins with Kozlowski at first, junior Krystyn Hoppel at second, junior Jordan Dudish at shortstop and sophomore Kate Boutet at third. Kozlowski is a three-year starter and will anchor GI’s batting order, while Dudish moves behind the plate.

Senior Ashley McRae will start in center with Thompson and senior Kaileen Schumacher likely joining her. Juniors Jamie Sobieski and Christie Borden are also competing for a spot in the outfield. Rounding out GI’s roster is Leah Gangloff, Kelly Stark, Maria Guidotti and Kayla Deuble.

“I don’t think there is a hole in this lineup,” Lester said. “We’re very solid all around the field.”

“There’s a bunch of girls that I can tell really picked it up from last year and are going to surprise a lot of people this year,” Kozlowski said. “We plan on going far this season.”

Contact reporter Nate Beutel at 282-2311, ext. 2262.


• COACH: Pat Lester

• KEY RETURNEES: Emily Thompson (Senior, P/OF), Leanna Kozlowski (Senior, 1B), Jordan Dudish (Junior, SS)

• QUESTION: Can the Vikings play solid defense on a consistent basis?

• PROJECTION: GI will be the surprise team in the Niagara Frontier League, challenging for one of the top three spots.