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Poland girls get ready for softball season

March 29, 2018
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

Jim Serich will be entering his second season as softball coach at Poland.

His club finished in 2nd place in the All American Conference Red Tier in his first campaign at the helm and he knows the honeymoon period is now over.

"I had a learning curve last year," Serich said chuckling. "The girls are really starting to by in (to his style of coaching)."

A major reason why last year's Lady Bulldogs finished behind first place was that they lost twice to eventual conference champion Canfield. The Lady Cardinals return a lot of their heroes from 2017 so Serich has made tripping up their rivals a top priority.

"We put a bullseye around (Canfield)," Serich said. "The competition in the AAC is tough, but we think we can play with anybody."

The coach's confidence is warranted because the Bulldogs are built around a very deep roster. Leading the pack in Poland is a quartet of returning seniors. Monica Kurjan is one of Poland's top pitchers. Shortstop Sarah Boccieri brings steadiness to that important position. Payton Slaina is the Bulldogs' third baseman and a Cleveland State softball recruit. Bella Gajdos is tremendously athletic.

"All of the seniors will have a lot to do with how far we go," Serich said. "They provide great leadership and our great to be around. The other girls feed off of them."

Junior Laura Sienkiewicz will play alongside Boccieri to form a fantastic keystone combination. She will also be counted on to knock in a lot of runs.

"(Sienkiewicz) will anchor second base," said Serich. "She is nice defensively and is a powerful bat in the middle of the order."

Torri Moderalli is another junior who will play an important role in Serich's everyday starting group. She will see action in the outfield. Junior Ashley Wire will take some turns in the starting rotation, but it is in the outfield where everyone in the AAC notices her most.

"(Wire) is one of the best outfielders in the area," Serich said.

If the Bulldogs only had the combination of upperclassmen Kurjan and Wire to pitch they would be considered to have a stellar starting rotation. Luckily, Poland can also cart out sophomore sensation Brooke Bobbey to the pitcher's circle most days. The lefty was All AAC as a freshman and brings the type of tenacity to the bump with her that is well beyond her years. In fact, all three Poland hurlers have different traits that make them a troublesome trio to opposing offenses.

"Kurjan has a good spin pitch, Wire is a hard thrower and Bobbey has an edge," said Serich. "It's a nice compliment of pitchers. We can go righty, lefty, righty in a row. They all have been throwing well in our scrimmages."

With Slaina at third, Boccieri at short, Sienkiewicz at second and sophomore Ally Nittoli at first base, Poland has the potential to stage an infield consisting of four letter winners. That group doesn't even include two freshmen that Coach Serich has been raving about all preseason.

"Jackie Grisdale can play just about anywhere," Serich said. "She's a great hitter and very athletic. And Cami Lattanzio is as polished at catcher as one can be at just 15 years old. She has all the tools you need to be a great one."

Right now about the only thing the sophomore coach is trying to correct is his team's defense. That's one area that has been suspect as winter turned to spring.

"We need to cut down on errors," admitted Serich. "We've addressed that a lot and have been working hard on it."

Poland was supposed to start play last weekend then continue with a busy week in Columbus against some super competition. One of those opponents is Lakewood Hebron who finished 31-1 a year ago. Hebron is also the same team that edged the Bulldogs for a state championship a few years back. Coach Serich welcomes the stiff competition early in the campaign.

"We'll have great tests down in Columbus," he said. "We'll need that to get us ready for league play."

Winning the league is one of the Bulldogs' goals this year, but making noise in the state tournament is another huge one. Playing well in all three phases of the game is the only way Serich sees that happening.

"We need to hold down the defense, do well as expected in the circle and get our bats going," the coach said. "If that happens we can win a district title."

 
 

 

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