By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Elaine Catanese cannot downplay what her Lyndhurst High School softball team accomplished last season.
“Winning 19 games is huge in Lyndhurst history,” said Catanese, who begins her fourth season as the Golden Bears head coach. “We went far last year, but we hope to go a little further this year.”
If the Golden Bears can win more than 19 games, it would mean the makings of a championship season – a place where the Golden Bears could legitimately land come June.
Maybe the main reason why Catanese is so high on her team is the fact that she has both parts of an experienced and talented battery back – and that’s not a bad place to start.
Leading the returnees is senior right-handed pitcher Casey Zdanek, who has done anything and everything for the Lyndhurst program since her freshman year.
The other key returnee is senior catcher Julieann Schneidenbach, who has been a mainstay behind the plate for four seasons. Both were All-NJIC Meadowlands Division selections last season.
“They’ve been together and gotten stronger together for all four years,” Catanese said. “It’s huge having them both back. Julie is remembered a lot because she has that last name and had her brother Dave play baseball before her. But she has a presence behind the plate like no one else. She’s a great hitter and a clutch hitter.
Added Catanese, “Casey is like the silent killer. She’s the ace in the hole. People come up against her and they’re amazed. Together, they’re something to watch.
” The terrific twosome will also anchor the Golden Bears’ batting order, with Schneidenbach batting third and Zdanek cleanup.
“I’m very confident with the two of them there,” Catanese said.
Zdanek pitched to a 1.37 ERA last year and won all 19 games. She averaged almost eight strikeouts per game and batted .452. That’s what is called a solid season.
Schneidenbach batted .376 and offers the solid defense behind the plate.
“She’s taking it more seriously now,” Catanese said. “She’s the strongest person I’ve seen in my four years.”
Junior Alyssa Pipon is currently working her way back after knee surgery, so freshman Diana Nerney is handling the first base duties.
Sophomore Jen Tellefsen is a standout at second base. She started right away last year as a freshman.
“She’s improved tremendously,” Catanese said of Tellefsen.
At shortstop is junior Grace Tomko, who does everything in every sport she plays. Be it soccer, basketball or softball, Tomko is a presence.
“She’s the real deal,” Catanese said of her leadoff hitter. “On a whole, Grace may be our best hitter. If she gets on base, with Casey and Julie coming up, we’re going to score a lot of runs and be a force to be reckoned with. I have a lot of confidence in them.”
Junior Jenna DiTommaso is the third baseman. She saw some time in the infield last year, mostly at second base.
Junior Brooke Laverty and sophomore Kayleigh O’Rourke are sharing left field duties.
In centerfield, junior Dina Ingenito returns. Ingenito stepped in last season when starter Nicole Baratta was injured and ended up making All-NJIC Meadowlands.
“I gave her the shot in center and she kept it,” Catanese said of Ingenito.
Right fielder Bianca Fata, a junior, is another of the school’s great athletes who play three sports.
Sophomore Briana Besa will fill in and play second base when Tellefsen is pitching.
“I like having two pitchers,” Catanese said. “We only have two seniors and they’re obviously key players, but with a fairly young team, I think they have a bright future.”
So Catanese likes the way her team is shaping up.
“I definitely like this team’s chances,” Catanese said. “I don’t want to put any added pressure on them, but with Casey and Julie, I think we’re pretty good. I think Casey and Julie will have monstrous seasons. We have to go out and play well to get where we were last year. Nothing is guaranteed. But I like our chances.”