Clarence coach Todd Banaszak knew this day would come. The day he's coaching the last of the four Rogers sisters. Maureen is a senior, and when she graduates in June, it will end an era.
Rogers carried her name well as a four-year starter at second base. Her three older sisters all played softball in college: Megan is a senior outfielder at St. John Fisher, Melissa played at St. Lawrence University, and Michelle played at Union College.
Banaszak pointed out that all four played in at least one state championship game. "They're all contact hitters, all hard to strike out and all solid, smart softball players," he said. "At one point, Michelle was the leading Division III hitter in the country."
The Rogers foursome, and a host of other players, have helped build Clarence into a perennial title contender. For the second week in a row, the Red Devils are the No. 1 ranked large school in the WNY Coaches poll.
Few schools match the team's history. Clarence has reached the Section VI Class AA final seven of the last nine years, winning four times. Last year, the Red Devils lost to Niagara Wheatfield. They have been ECIC I champs or co-champs six of the last eight years and have made the state championships four times since 2000. With plenty of talent to go around, including All-WNY Outfielder Tori Nappo and ECIC I Pitcher of the Year Katie Bull, the Red Devils are poised to make another run.
Nappo is a four-year starter and has signed with Canisius College. Bull is off to a 4-0 start in the circle. Junior catcher Alyssa Dewes has given an early verbal to Syracuse University. She leads the team batting .615. Senior Ally Gay is a three-year starter in right field, and junior Katie Milone is another three-year player, who has earned the starting shortstop position. Senior Lauren Muni is back at first base, and Moriah Harris is a two-year starter at third base and the only sophomore on the roster.
Lancaster, a Class AA final four team that last two seasons, is replacing seven players. The only player with four years' experience is left fielder Caitlin Myszka, while third baseman Jacquie Porreca is a three-year veteran. The Redskins started the season with a 9-3 nonleague win over Niagara Wheatfield.
All-star catcher Taylor Jezuit of Orchard Park has signed with Division II Mercyhurst in Erie, Pa. She's batting .583 after three games, picking up where she left off last year (.447). Freshman Shaye Swiatek takes over at shortstop for her sister, Taylor, who graduated. Pitcher Carly Loffredo had six wins last season and shut out West Seneca West in her debut this year.
Frontier returns nine players, including senior captains Tina Castricone, Sara Moretta and Courtney Lipka.
While it's been a recent thrill for followers of Williamsville North to watch 2011 graduate Corrin Genovese playing on ESPN for Missouri, this year's Spartans face plenty of work. North, which shared the ECIC I title last year with Clarence, graduated nine players. Looking to fill the gaps are senior captain Lainey Materise, Stephanie Verhage and Lindsey Kenyon.
Sweet Home will need big years from veteran pitcher Kalie McHenry, three-year shortstop Jenny Rizzo and three-year center fielder Ashley Gangi to compete as a newcomer to ECIC I.
> Hollander leaves a legacy
Long before she became an accomplished college softball coach, Sandy Hollander played high school softball at Kenmore West, graduating in 1977. The veteran of 24 seasons at Buffalo State died of cancer April 2 at age 52. Last October, she was inducted to the Kenmore West Wall of Fame.
Colleen Duffy was Hollander's high school softball coach and was among the people Hollander invited to share her induction.
"Sandy Hollander as young athlete at Kenmore West was very dedicated, very serious and highly competitive. For the most part, she played the game as a young player the same way she coached," said Duffy, who coached between 1972-1994. "When she was inducted into the Hall of Fame, she called to tell me, and I told her I'd love to attend. We sat with her at [her] table, she looked good, she sounded good -- who would have known?"
Monday's game at Williamsville South, which was to memorialize late coach Gerry Gentner, was postponed until 4 p.m. Thursday. The Billies will play rival Williamsville East.
Gentner, who coached South for 14 seasons, died Jan. 27 after a four-year battle with cancer. Several tributes to Gentner will be unveiled, and his family -- including South coach Julie Gentner-Murphy -- will speak.
> Defending champions
CLASS AA: Niagara Wheatfield looks to get back to the title game in Caitlin Attfield's senior year. The Falcons saw their season come to an end against Cicero in state semifinals. Wheatfield is the defending large school poll champions.
CLASS A: Williamsville East builds around returning All-WNY and ECIC II Player of the Year Jenna Allers. Third baseman Katherine Krok was a league all-star. Center fielder Danielle Silvestri is a four-year starter, while Allers, Tara Schiumo and Krok are three-year starters.
CLASS B: Falconer won its first 22 games before a season-ending loss to Windsor in the state semis. The Falcons won the always-tough CCAA I with a 14-0 record. Falconer looks to replace last year's firepower with seniors Shelby Overturf, Chelsea Goodwill, Allyson Roach and Katie Snow.
CLASS C: Frewsburg looks to ride the arm of All-WNY pitcher Samantha Mott, who's only a junior. She struck out 185 last year and led her team to the state semifinals against Haldane.
CLASS D: With all its players back, Forestville has will defend its Sectional title. The Hornets return four CCAA IV all-stars from last year's team, which went 13-5: Shortstop Emily Dillenburg, pitcher Ryanne Dugan, first baseman Precious Kaczor and catcher Cherish Pope.
Forestville is coached by Brianne Prince-Hazelton, a two-time all-WNY selection from Frewsburg, who played at St. Bonaventure. The Hornets (4-1) move into CCAA III.
MONSIGNOR MARTIN: Mount Mercy looks to defend its title with a pair of future scholarship athletes. Pitcher Alison Benz signed with Gannon, while second baseman Kayla Larson inked a pact with Mercyhurst. Benz is the only returning first-team All-Catholic player.
The Magic was the Monsignor Martin representative at the Catholic state championships. They fell to Archbishop Molloy in the title game.
> Coaching changes galore
Mike Injaychock has retired as Sacred Heart's coach, ending a long career that began at JFK. "My wife put up with it for 39 years. It's time to look in another direction," he said. In eight seasons under Injaychock, the Sharks won six regular season titles (2004-2009) and four consecutive playoff titles from 2005 to 2008. Sacred Heart's overall record under Injaychock was 76-15.
Injaychock was a history and English teacher at JFK before he retired in 2002. He coached softball for 21 seasons after starting his career as a varsity assistant track coach.
The new coach of the Sharks is 1986 graduate Karen Conway.
Chris Durr is adding softball coach at Williamsville East to his string of duties. Durr also coaches the girls soccer team at East and was a longtime girls basketball coach. He's the Section VI girls soccer chairman and sectional co-chairman for girls basketball.
Two coaches reached the 300-win milestone last week. Pete Tonsoline of Iroquois, in his 29th season, chalked up the win against Williamsville South. Matt Chimera, a veteran of 18 campaigns at Kenmore West, did it against North Tonawanda.
New coaches: Cheryl O'Connor (North Tonawanda), Tammy Hosier (Panama), Paul Lombardo (Falconer), Amanda Hillebert (Gowanda), Marisa Fallacaro (Eden), Jeff Ziobro (Lake Shore) and Caroline Berger (Sweet Home).
> Around the bases
West Seneca East is off to a 5-0 start. The Trojans are led by four senior captains: All-star third baseman Jean Stahl and 3-4-5 hitters: first baseman Corinne Christie, shortstop Meagan Lewis and center fielder Sara Persutti.
Cheektowaga joins the battle for ECIC III, along with Depew and Springville, led by All-WNYer Yasmin "Jazzy" Harrell of the Warriors, who can slap hit, bunt or hit for power. In her first seven games in 2012, the Seton Hall-bound Harrell has 16 hits, 15 runs and eight stolen bases. Starting pitcher/shortstop Jennifer Mikolajek is 3-0 and has driven in 13 runs in seven games.
Depew, last year's Class A-2 champion, has rejoined Class B. Depew is a deep team led by third baseman Sarah Gorski, a four-year starter and defensive leader. Shortstop Kelsey Grosch is an exceptional runner/slapper and a four-year starter. Catcher Kirstie Dlugosz is key defensively and will bat in the heart of the order. Depew visits rival Lancaster at 4:45 p.m. May 14.
Shortstop Alissa Emerson and catcher Kendrick Wilson are two solid starters for Springville.
Second baseman Taylor Balser of Amherst can hit for power, bunt for a single and has plenty of savvy. Balser, third baseman Emilye Rybarczyk and catcher Maddie Aston are the returning starters from last year's Class A-2 finalist Tigers.
Lake Shore has a mix of seniors: two captains, pitcher Tallie Papke and catcher June Longbine, as well as a pair of two freshman who start, shortstop Darian Evans and pitcher/outfielder Jessica Ackley.
Iroquois' Sara Tauriello will play at Haverford College.
Maryvale has experience on the mound, with senior Mindy Odrobina coming off an all-star season in ECIC III.
Alden senior captain Claire Hartman was an honorable mention All-WNY a year ago after batting .448. The Bulldogs have an exceptional sophomore class, led by Morgan Augustine, Lauren Kocher, Alyssa Gadd and Haley Panek.
Lackawanna returns seven starters, including senior pitcher Amanda Mesi, who already has a no-hitter against Holland, and power-hitting catcher Kiera Diana.
Kim Rohe of Cleveland Hill was the ECIC IV Player of the Year last year.
JFK junior Kayla Williams is a two-time league all-star and a three-year starter.
St. Mary's won last year's regular season title of the Monsignor Martin Association, going 12-2 before bowing in the playoff semifinals. It's a veteran infield, with seniors at all five positions. North Division all-star Lauren Lubecki and Samantha Poules are four-year players.
Sacred Heart looks for leadership and all-around play from its senior captains: pitcher Meg White, right fielder Lisa Harb and center fielder Kathleen Ruggiero.
Junior pitcher and co-captain Lindsay Bryer is the key to Wilson's success in the Niagara-Orleans League. She had a 13-strikeout game last week and leads the team in hitting.
Akron's Alexis Kidder returns for her third year on the mound. Senior Kierstyn Sturmer has made a four-year career of being the team's leadoff hitter and shortstop.
Dunkirk returns CCAA I all-stars Alayna Carlson, Khee Nance and Kelsey Drummond in its quest to win CCAA I. The Marauders have been getting good production from the top of the lineup. Pitcher Aldyn Carlson has won three of four starts.
Skylar Ondus, Hunter White and Alexa Farner return for first-year Gowanda coach Amanda Hillebert.
Olean, coming off a 12-2 mark in CCAA I, will compete again with All-WNYer Chelsea Calabro and Maddy Stavish. All-WNYer Samantha Mott (Frewsburg) led the Bears to state's Class C semifinals.
Maple Grove has two perennial all-stars, catcher Lauren Nickerson and pitcher Mackenzie Ellis. Both batted .490 last year as sophomores.
Franklinville's Anna Ciesla is the returning CCAA III Pitcher of the Year. Linnea Pollack made the CCAA III first team as a freshman last year.
Cattaraugus/Little Valley is off to a 6-1 start with returning starters Erin Crandall and Sara Crandall. The entire outfield is back, including Olivia Ploetz, Emily Fuller and Kaitlyn Nye.
Kris Merritt is already 4-0 on the mound for Chautauqua Lake, but just as impressive are her five home runs, four triples and 15 RBIs. Third baseman/pitcher Lauren Cummings, second baseman Jill Einink and catcher Hannah Rauh hope to prove a winning combination.
Pine Valley will face CCAA III competition head on with pitcher Kyleen Hamilton, shortstop Kaylee Mathews, second baseman Angela Anderson and center fielder Carlye Swanson.
Panama is the favorite to repeat as CCAA IV champs with co-Player of the Year Kirsten Green and Pitcher of the Year Taylor Lloyd. The deep lineup also includes all-stars Jessica Leonard and Andrea Marsh.
City Honors is chasing its 10th consecutive Thompson Trophy title. Senior pitcher Yanava Hawkins is the returning Player of the Year in the league.