Hornets continue to rebuild, improve

LYNDON CENTER, Vt. — Despite the return of only one player from last season's 8-17 team; the Lyndon softball program continues to build itself into a contender for the North Atlantic Conference title behind a talented recruiting class.

"We are a much stronger team defensively than we were a year ago," said Lyndon Head Coach Jen Layn. "If we can continue to make less errors, I feel we can compete with anyone on our schedule."

The lone holdover from the 2011 campaign is starting pitcher Meghan Gadapee, the ace of the Hornets pitching staff. The crafty right-hander from nearby Littleton, N.H. turned in an impressive freshman season winning seven games while striking out 44 and walking only seven. She also batted .254 with 16 hits, two doubles and seven runs-batted in.

In Lyndon's five-day, 10-game season opening road trip to the Adirondack Sports Dome in Glens Falls, N.Y., Gadapee won three games, including a one-hit gem against SUNY Cobleskill on Tuesday, Feb. 21. In five starts thus far she has allowed on 13 earned runs while fanning 25 and walking only two. She is also hitting .333 after 10 games with nine hits, one triple and five RBIs.

Joining Gadapee in the starting rotation is former Woodsville High (N.H.) standout Katie Davis, who led the Engineers to the Class S state title in 2010. The hard-throwing right-hander earned her first collegiate win on Wednesday, Feb. 22 when she no-hit Bay Path College. In five starts, Davis has allowed only 16 earned runs while fanning 31.

Headlining the list of talented freshmen in the field is Jena Finnegan, an All-New York State Class B performer from Keeseville, who will hit in the middle of the Hornet batting order.

In the first 10 games of her Lyndon career, Finnegan has swung the bat at a .424 clip including 14 hits, one double, one home run and eight runs-batted-in. She also has collected seven runs scored, 18 total bases, seven putouts, 26 assists and is 4-for-4 in stolen base attempts.

Igniting the Hornet attack will be St. Johnsbury Academy grad Ashley Barski, who will bat leadoff and play first base. A defensive standout, Barski is currently hitting an even .400 and is 8-for-8 in stolen base attempts.

The catching duties will be handled by the tandem of Taylor Young, the former Most Valuable Player of the Catholic Central League in Lowell, Mass., and Jillian Emery, a standout receiver from Lamoille Valley Union High School.

Young has opened the season hitting .333 with 11 hits, one double, one triple and two RBIs from the No. 2 slot in the batting order. Emery, meanwhile, has proven to be the toughest out on the squad. She currently is tied for the lead on the team in walks with six and has not struck out in 31 plate appearances.

Julia McNeil, a teammate of Young's at Lowell Catholic High, and North Country Union alum, Katie Ste. Marie round out the infield at second and third, respectively. The Hornets will receive a much-needed boost when all-state infielder Jen Lynch of Portland, Maine and Hanna White, one of the top third baseman in the state of Vermont last year, return from injuries sustained in the pre-season.

"Our infield play has been satisfactory, but we still have a few questions to answer," said Layn. "Once we get our injured players back, we shouldn't have any gaps in our inner defense."

Lyndon's outer defense will be anchored by the platoon of Emery and Young in center and they will be flanked by juniors Alise Vandal and NCU grad Autumn Thompson, sophomore Chrissi Whitaker and the freshman trio of Vicky Szamocki and Dannika Dobrowski. Davis will also be added to the outfield mix if needed.

"What we are looking for in the outfield is speed and range," said Layn. "The players who know situations and produce runs will be one who get a chance to play. Like us, the league is pretty young this year. If we continue to build on our successes from last season and improve as the season progresses, I feel we can be competitive in the league."

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