Veteran pitcher Zdanek also threat at plate


Lyndhurst junior pitcher Casey Zdanek.

By Jim Hague

Now that she’s a junior and a three-year member of the Lyndhurst High School softball team, Casey Zdanek just knew that she would be vastly improved this season.

Not like there was anything wrong with what Zdanek posted over her first two years as the Golden Bears’ top pitcher and slugger. She was making her mark just fine.

But a little bit of a growth spurt and an added dose of confidence could do wonders for someone who was already established as a big-time softball player.

“I definitely feel like I’m a better player, because I have so much more confidence in myself,” Zdanek said. “I’ve been working a lot on my pitches. My changeup has become a lot better. I have a lot more movement on my fastball. I feel like I’ve grown a little and that definitely helps in terms of being bigger and stronger and taller on the mound.”

Lyndhurst head coach Elaine Catanese can see the difference in Zdanek.

“She’s grown a few inches from last year, so that gives her more of a presence on the mound,” Catanese said. “She’s definitely developed that changeup significantly, to the point where she now throws it often. She has good velocity and movement on her pitches.”

Catanese also sees the development in Zdanek as a hitter as well.

“To be honest with you, she’s our main hitter,” Catanese said. “If we want someone to come through in a tight situation, it’s Casey. I don’t mind see her coming to the plate when we need a big hit. She’s developed that experience both as a hitter and as a pitcher. She started every game for us as a freshman and started every game as a sophomore, so it’s bound to have a positive effect on her as a junior.”

Last Friday, Zdanek showed why she’s one of the top all-around players in Bergen County with an overall complete game in a big win over neighboring rival North Arlington.

Zdanek fired a one-hitter, striking out nine, but she also delivered at the plate with a double, home run and four RBI, leading the Golden Bears (16-6) to a 10-0 win over the Vikings.

For her efforts, Zdanek has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.

It was a tough week for the Golden Bears, facing tougher competition like New Milford and Pascack Hills in independent games, then finally facing a Group IV school like Bergen Tech in the opening round of the Bergen County Tournament, falling 3-0.

That’s why the performance against North Arlington was important.

“I think it was huge, because we did have a bit of a tough week,” Catanese said. “But Casey pitched well all week.

She had a one-hitter into the sixth against Pascack Hills and pitched a four-hitter against New Milford. She allowed only five hits to Bergen Tech. I think the North Arlington game really boosted her confidence and proved to her that she could do it. It’s huge for her to have a good all-around game like that.”

Zdanek does not participate in any other sport at Lyndhurst. She’s softball, through and through. And she’s softball all year round, playing with the Lyndhurst Pride travel team in the summer months and another team in the fall.

She also receives regular lessons from respected Immaculate Conception coach Jeff Hrononcich, who was once the head coach at St. Peter’s College.

“I think my hitting is still the same,” said Zdanek, who is batting better than .400 with five homers and 25 RBI this season. “I’m pretty happy with that. But I think I’m definitely a pitcher who hits. I know how important my pitching is. I do take more pride in my pitching. I know what my role is.”

Catanese said that she has a good relationship with Zdanek.

“I don’t have to critique her often,” Catanese said. “She can do it herself. At times, she’s her best and worst critic. We’re always talking about what’s effective and we chart all of her pitches, so she knows what to throw against certain batters. She’s looking all the time to get better and I think the experience has helped her significantly. She has a lot of poise and composure on the mound. She knows what to do and handles herself very well. She is our success. We depend a lot on her.”

Zdanek said that the Golden Bears can now focus on nailing down the NJIC Meadowlands A Division title. They have two games remaining against Becton Regional and Secaucus. Two wins will seal the deal.

“We want to win the league title,” Zdanek said. “Then, we can move on to the states. We’re always going to do well in the states. We just want to go as far as we can.”

While Zdanek is only a junior, it’s never too early to consider colleges.

“I have thought about it a little,” Zdanek said. “Actually, it scares me a little. I do want to play softball in college, because it’s the only sport I play.”

Catanese thinks that Zdanek is college material.

“Without a doubt,” Catanese said. “It might not come now, but it will come.”

Zdanek is pleased with the way she’s performed this season.

“It honestly makes me feel really awesome,” Zdanek said. “I try not to get too down on myself, but having a game like this one really helps. It helps me get ready for the next game. After the game, we all went out to dinner and went to play mini-golf together. That really has helped our momentum. We have a really close team and that helps.”

As long as the girl in the circle keeps throwing and hitting the way she has, the Golden Bears can ride that camaraderie all the way to a league and possible state title.

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