By Shelby Townsend
After completing a productive, non-conference fall season on December 7, the softball team took a much deserved four week break before resuming training in preparation for the tough spring season ahead.
Jamie Apicella, who is entering his 19th season as head coach of the Pioneers, said he feels very positive heading into the 2017 season. “Our strength this season is going to be our pitching staff,” Apicella explained. “We have three formidable pitchers [who] arguably are going to make up the strongest staff in the region.”
Senior pitcher Ashley Martin also feels very confident heading into her final season. “Our biggest strength is that we have a lot of depth at each position,” she explained. “I think our team is going to be much stronger than last year.”
Last spring, the Pioneers finished with a 37-15-1 record. Coach Apicella hopes that the team will work past the shortcomings of last year, and he does not want his players to be content with just making it to post-season play.
“My goals have not changed in 19 years,” Apicella said. “We always strive to be the best. We want to win every facet of the season.” This includes being regular season champions, East Coast Conference champions, regional championships, and a chance to compete for the NCAA Division II Championship this May in Salem, Va.
Senior infielder Kayla McCoy feels very confident in her team’s ability to make it further in the post season. “Our team in extremely versatile and the internal competition pushes us to be better,” McCoy explained.
Apicella wants to see his team achieve smaller goals throughout the season and improve on some mistakes from last season to reach the ultimate goal of a national title. This includes a .970 fielding percentage as a team, a goal they have come up slightly short of the last couple of years. According the LIU Post’s athletic site, the Pioneers fielded at a .967 in 2016. Apicella also said he would like to see his players play to the scoreboard less and focus on playing their own game to the best of their ability.
Each year, the Pioneers kick off their spring season in March with a tournament in Florida. This year they will compete in the PFX Spring Games, which according to the tournament’s website, is the largest college softball event in the world with over 300 teams competing from the five collegiate divisions.
“We play some of the stronger programs from other regions to really test our team early,” Apicella explained. “Getting a taste for the strong teams early will help us late in the season.”
Although conference and non-conference play during the rest of the season can be difficult, Apicella is confident in his team’s ability to win. They will play each team in the East Coast Conference four times during the regular season, which Apicella said can be very difficult.
McCoy said her team is focused on playing “Post softball” which means not focusing on each individual opponent. “We intend to approach each game the same and remain consistent,” she said.
“We have always been a good finishing team,” Apicella said. “It is just a matter of keeping our thoughts simple and playing the game to our true potential every day we step on the field.”