Golden Bears softball squad looking to shine

Photo by Jim Hague/ The Lyndhurst High School softball team is ready to build on last year’s successful campaign. From left are assistant coach Diana Auteri, Jenna Latino, Brianna Montalvo, head coach Elaine Catanese, Nicole Baratta and Lauren Vendola.


By Jim Hague

The Lyndhurst High School softball team set high goals last year – and managed to reach some of them, like qualifying for the Bergen County Tournament and the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I playoffs.

“We’re trying to build on the success we had last year,” Lyndhurst head coach Elaine Catanese said. “It was the first time that we went to both the county and state playoffs in several years. We were one game away from winning the league (the NJIC Meadowlands A Division). It was not a bad year at all.”

Sensing that the Golden Bears were going to be highly competitive again this season, Catanese went out and scheduled independent games against quality competition.

“Because of what we did last year, we wanted to play the tougher competition to make us a better team,” Catanese said.

If the Golden Bears are going to be better than a 14-win team this spring, they will need another big season from junior Casey Zdanek, who did a little bit of everything last year. Zdanek was the Golden Bears’ top pitcher, but she was also the team’s cleanup hitter, batting .500 with eight homers and 32 RBI.

“I really hope she can do better than last year,” Catanese said. “If she does, that would be great. She’s really pivotal to us when she’s in the circle. It’s up to the rest of the team to back her up. I’m hoping Casey takes more of a leadership role this season.”

Zdanek’s backstop, Julieann Schneidenbach, also returns. Schneidenbach has been a two-year starter for the Golden Bears and she’s an excellent defensive backstop.

“She’s great at pitches in the dirt,” Catanese said. “She really can block anything. That’s her strongest asset. You hardly ever see a ball get past her. She’s also our No. 3 hitter who can hit with power.”

Everyone knows that the strength to a high school softball team lies with having a solid pitcher and catcher – and the Golden Bears have both.

Sophomore Alyssa Pipon is the team’s first baseman. Pipon came on strong at the end of last season after she had knee surgery that kept her out for the first half of the year. With Pipon back on track, Catanese expects big things from the first-sacker. Senior Jenna Latino is the team’s starting second baseman. Latino is an excellent fielder up the middle for the Golden Bears.

As the season approaches, Catanese has not settled on her starting shortstop or third baseman, but she knows what two players are going to be there.

Sophomore Grace Tomko and freshman Jennifer Tellifsen are going to play, but it’s not known what positions yet.

“They’re going to flip flop between short and third,” Catanese said. “They’re both good players and good hitters.”

Sophomore Jenna DiTomasso is the left fielder. DiTomasso is one of the finest all-around athletes in the school.

Senior Nicole Baratta returns to her familiar spot in centerfield. Baratta is also a great athlete, playing soccer and basketball.

“She does everything,” Catanese said. “She just needs to take charge this year. Having her in centerfield is great, because she’s able to cover a lot of ground out there. She’s also our lead-off hitter and is very fast.”

Baratta batted .378 last year at the top of the Golden Bears’ lineup.

Sophomore Bianca Fata is the right fielder. Fata is part of the Golden Bears’ younger group that serves a purpose as the program continues to build.

“We have a young team that will be strong this year and even stronger next year,” Catanese said. “This is really one of the best times of my life, because we have a young team, but we have a family bond with this team. We go to dinner together as a team. We are really close and do things together. I like that about this team. I like the way they all get along.”

The Golden Bears were set to face Queen of Peace and Harrison to begin their 2012 season.

“Of course, we have high hopes and expectations,” Catanese said. “We set five goals before first practice and the pursuit of those goals has brought this team together. We need to accomplish those five goals in order to move forward.”

And the five goals?

“I’m not about to tell you,” Catanese said with a laugh. It should be a very interesting season for the Golden Bears.

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