Honesdale's varsity softball team looks to bounce back from a sub-bar season

A year ago, the Lady Hornets struggled all season to find their identity in varsity softball action.

Under the direction of veteran head coach Dave Patrisso, Honesdale managed just one win in the Lackawanna League and finished last in Division II.

Entering his 13th year at the Red & Black helm, Patrisso is expecting much more from his team in 2018.

“We were very young and inexperienced last year,” he said. “But we don’t have that excuse this year. I’m excited to see what we can do. We have a talented group of players and they’re anxious to get out there and compete.”

Stage Set

Honesdale’s roster features an intriguing mixture of battle-tested veterans and talented youngsters.

Several standout players return, including divisional All-Stars Kaitlin Price and Brooke Gardas along with team captains Jami Lesek and Brianna Potter.

All have been working hard and waiting patiently for Old Man Winter to loosen his icy grip on Northeastern PA.

“It stinks, but I guess pretty much everyone else is in the same boat too,” said Coach Patrisso. “We just have to stay focused and be ready when we finally get out on the field.”

Weather permitting, the Lady Hornets will travel to Wilkes Barre this coming weekend for a pair of exhibition games.

The local lasses will take on Crestwood and Wyoming Area.

Opening Day of the Lackawanna League season is tentatively scheduled for Monday, April 2 on the road at Scranton High.

First pitch is set for 4:30 p.m. in the Electric City.

Dynamic Duo

Lesek and Wood will play key roles in whatever level of success Honesdale enjoys this spring.

Last year, the Lady Hornets struggled even to compete in a loaded Lackawanna League. The local lasses finished 1-12 overall and stuck with Western Wayne in the Division II basement.

Any significant turnaround will be predicated on Lesek's consistency in the circle and Wood's presence behind the plate.

A battle-tested senior, Jami has four years of varsity experience under her belt. While not overpowering in terms of pure heat, Lesek boasts a dazzling array of off-speed pitches that can keep batters guessing.

“Jami has been the heart and soul of this team for a few years now,” Coach Patrisso said. “She's been our starting pitcher since her freshman year. Jami has a nice confidence about her. She plays the game year-round and I like what she brings to the table.”

Lesek was among the Division II leaders in innings pitched, strikeouts and ERA last spring.

Wood is entering her second season as the Red & Black varsity backstop. A hard-nosed junior, Sadie earns rave reviews from her mentor work ethic and coachability.

“I'm so impressed with Sadie so far this year,” said Coach Patrisso. “I'm very comfortable with Sadie back there. Defensively, she's improved tenfold in less than two years of catching.

“Sadie handles our pitchers well and she's developed a real rapport with Jami out there.”

Big Guns

In addition to Lesek and Wood, Coach Patrisso was quick to point out several other players who are crucial to Honesdale's gameplan in 2018.

At the top of that list is Brianna Potter. A slugging senior first baseman, Potter will serve as a Lady Hornet captain this season.

“Brianna is definitely our most vocal leader,” Coach Patrisso said. “She takes command out there. Brianna is a big, tall, strong girl. She hits the ball hard and plays a good first base.”

Honesdale is blessed with 11 players who gained varsity experience last year. Among them is a pair of standouts who earned All-Star status in 2017.

Kaitlin Price batted .395 in divisional games and played a Gold Glove level centerfield. The junior has twice been named to the All-Star Team and Coach Patrisso fully expects her to be right at that level again.

“Kaitlin swings a good, consistent bat,” he said. “She also covers a lot of ground in the outfield. I'm expecting Kaitlin to pick up right where she left off.”

Brooke Gardas also made the Division II All-Star Team in 2017. A scrappy junior second baseman, Gardas will be slotted in at the top of the batting order.

“Brooke was a very pleasant surprise last year,” Coach Patrisso said. “She took the league by storm. Brooke does whatever we ask her to help the team.”

Alexa Jones anchors the infield at third base, but is also athletic enough to play shortstop. Another member of the junior class, Jones is a prototypical power hitter who can drive the ball from gap-to-gap.

“Lex is going to give us a big presence in the middle of our line-up,” said Coach Patrisso. “She'll be hitting either clean-up or fifth and I expect her to drive in a ton of runs this year.”

Ready to Roll

Wallenpaupack Area and Delaware Valley finished in a dead heat for first place in the division last season.

The Lady Bucks eventually earned the title by virtue of a thrilling win over the Warriors in a special one-game playoff.

North Pocono also cracked the .500 mark with an 8-5 record. Honesdale and Western Wayne both struggled, each finishing up the campaign at 1-12.

Despite these ugly numbers, Coach Patrisso is confident his team is ready to make some noise at both the league and district levels.

“We play in such a tough league and such a tough division,” Coach Patrisso said. “There are absolutely no gimmes this year and if you're not getting better as a team, then you're going to be left behind.

“I fully expect us to be at or over .500. We are solid all up and down the line-up and I think we can compete with just about anybody out there.”