The good news for Ryan Hondorf is he knows exactly what his American Studies softball team needs to work on. The bad news is, he never gets the chance to work on it in games.
“In practice we try to go over situations that they may not see in some of their games because they’ve been so dominant so far,” Hondorf said. “What I think we need to work on is when teams put the ball in play with runners on base, how are we going to respond? We just need to know where to go with the ball all the time. That’s something we still need to get better at.”
The Senators haven’t had many opportunities to work on their alleged shortcomings because their opponents simply won’t cooperate. Well, OK, maybe the Senators have had something to do with that as they have bludgeoned their opponents in their first three games this season, with Roosevelt the latest victim.
Sydney Borak, Neveah Franky and Maia Fernandez drove in two runs each, while Franky allowed just two hits and struck out five in a 15-2 victory over Roosevelt. That win came on the heels of a 17-2 triumph over Clinton and a 16-4 wallopping of Walton.
So as one can see, it’s hard to work on dealing with opposing baserunners if they rarely get on base.
So how is it the Senators are off and running and clicking on all cylinders so early in the season?
“I think it all started with the offseason,” Hondorf said. “We have a good group of five or six players who have been playing in the summer and have played fall ball. So having done that, it makes it so much easier to start the season off on the right foot.”
It also doesn’t hurt to have the dominant Franky on the mound. The junior right-hander has struck out 18 opposing batters in her two outings this season, including 12 in the win over Clinton. And when it’s not Franky having her way on the mound, it’s Fernandez, who fanned nine in the win over Walton in her one pitching start.
Combine that with a veteran catcher behind the plate in Emily Ejamal, the quartet of Ava Grill Dubois, Tess Futterman, Fernandez and Borak playing airtight defense on the infield, and an outfield of Rachel Jacob, Lily Strassberg and Emma Bartolazo that is solid — and also well-rested because so few balls find their way out to them — just about anyone can see why optimism is high for a special season for these Senators.
“There’s definitely more experience this year, and we’re also closer as a team,” said Borak, the slugging first baseman. “We’ve all been together for at least one year, and we all want to win for each other. So I think this team is much better than last year’s.”
Which is pretty high praise as last year’s team reached the second round of the Public School Athletic League playoffs, where the Senators lost a 5-4 decision to eventual title-game participant Brooklyn Tech.
“I think we are a lot better than last year,” Hondorf said. “Not only is Neveah a better pitcher, but our hitters are better. So I do think we can make a big run in the playoffs this year.”
The Senators took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Grill Dubois scored from third on a wild pitch. They added five more in the third inning with Borak’s two-run triple being the key hit before exploding for nine runs in the fourth inning. Roosevelt allowed 14 hits and eight walks in just four innings — way more offense than Franky would need.
“We definitely feel like we’re going to win whenever she’s out there,” Hondorf said of his ace. “I know she feels a lot more confident with her control. She’s just throwing more and more strikes all the time. She feels more confident, so we feel more confident when she takes the mound.”
Next up for the Senators is a marquee matchup with defending division champ Kennedy on April 10 in a battle of unbeatens at Van Cortlandt Park.
“Last year they had a phenomenal pitcher,” Borak said, referring to former Kennedy star Stacy Hernandez. “Now we’re excited to show what we got offensively.”