SPRINGVILLE — Springville-Griffith Institute girls varsity softball coach Tom Szczerbacki has had one of the best pitchers in Erie County Interscholastic III for three years.
Despite Katrina Kerkendall putting up high numbers on the mound, it has not translated into winning seasons – having gone 6-10 in 2012 and 5-11 in 2013. Szczerbacki said he thinks that will change, this spring.
“My expectations are high, they really are,” Szczerbacki said. “We can be at the top of our league. Every position should be solid and I have a number of girls that can play different spots. We want to be up at the top. This is as good of a year as any, with the team I have. Having Katrina again is huge. She’s our horse.”
Kerkendall, a senior, is one of eight returning starters for Springville. She is entering her third and final year on the varsity team and is coming off a junior season in which she finished with 16 complete games – racking up 75 strikeouts.
“Katrina just has a really great attitude,” Szczerbacki said. “She doesn’t get rattled; she always stays in the game and doesn’t try to do too much. She can throw the ball hard and she has four pitches, but she primarily uses three – she’s been working really hard on her curve. The best thing about her though is her focus. She’s just a great kid.”
Senior Erin Kwiatkowski is entering her third year on varsity and will play catcher. Kwiatkowski was moved up to varsity as a sophomore, to play centerfield, but played catcher as a junior and now, as a senior. Along with her defensive duties, Kwiatkowski will hit second in the batting order for Springville.
“She’s an outstanding catcher,” Szczerbacki said. “She has a great arm; she’s aggressive, she’s not afraid to throw the ball. Erin’s just a great athlete, all the way around. She can do a lot of different things. She can hit the ball well and she’s always making contact. She’s smart at the plate and can do a number of different things for us. She can bunt, slap bunt and slap hit. There are a lot of things she can do.”
Senior Tainne Dallas will hit cleanup and play primarily first base, but will also play other positions. Dallas supplies a lot of the power in Springville’s lineup and is also a three-year varsity contributor.
“She has improved her hitting a lot,” Szczerbacki said, of Dallas. “She works really hard at her craft – whether it’s hitting, fielding, whatever it might be.”
Senior Phoenix Rollek will hit leadoff and play third base. Rollek provides Springville with a lot of speed at the top of the order and is able to get on base. Juniors Heaven Rollek and Gabby Hartman will play the middle infield positions, with Rolleck playing shortstop and Hartman playing second base.
Sophomore Sara Kwiatkowski returned, to play centerfield. Szczerbacki has called up freshmen Mariah Gamel and Carrie Dickinson, to add to an already strong team. Gamel will play some first base, for the Lady Griffs.
“She has some power and she can hit the ball really well,” Szczerbacki said. “She’s sound defensively and just an all-around good player and I thought she could help us.”
Dickinson will play outfield and provide some speed for Springville. Sophomore Kalee Schreiber was also called up to varsity and will be the team’s No. 2 pitcher, behind Kerkendall.
Szczerbacki noted that junior Natalie Strub has impressed him, with her power and clean fielding. Stub will play outfield and second base.
Springville will be challenged by perennial divisional powers Depew and Cheektowaga. Depew has a 32-game winning streak against ECIC opponents and has won three straight division titles.
“I told the girls last season that we want to be where Depew is; we want to be at the top,” Szczerbacki said.
“To get there, we have to beat Cheektowaga. We have to beat Depew. I think that’s been our focus. I think we’re there and we should be able to compete against everyone.”
Springville had a non-league game against Mount Mercy postponed and then traveled to Cheektowaga on April 3, for the team’s first game of the season.