Niagara Gazette — One is the starting second baseman at the University at Buffalo. Another leads Canisius softball in home runs and RBIs (and it’s not even close). The third has started 15 games behind the plate as a freshman at Niagara University.
Their names are Ryleigh Fitzgerald, Meghan Cuda and Teresa Fleckenstein. The three played ball together at Lewiston-Porter High School in 2012, leading the Lancers to an improbable run to the Class A-2 finals, where their big-time aspirations ultimately fell short with a loss to Albion.
It’s a story of a small school doing big things, a group of underdogs who outworked and outplayed the big kids to prove that they deserve to be taken seriously.
“They put a ton of hard work in,” said rookie varsity softball coach Chris D’Anna, who replaced departed coach Nina Calarco after one season coaching the JV team. “Those girls, they all put in a ton of time and it showed on the field. … (Their story is) a great talking point and something for these girls to shoot for as motivation.”
D’Anna sees glimpses of that team whenever he watches his 2014 edition take the field.
They’re young, real young; the only team in the Niagara Frontier League that will start three eighth graders this season. And they look a lot like a certain trio of girls when they began their journey to Division I scholarships about five years ago.
Jenna Rhue, Emma Waechter and Clare Falkowski factor heavily into the future of Lew-Port softball, but D’Anna doesn’t think there will be much of a wait.
He wants to win now, and he says the Lancers have the pieces in place to do so, even if the NFL schedule looms as daunting as ever.
“Coming into this position, I didn’t really know what to expect,” D’Anna said. “I knew I was only going to have two seniors. … But I also know a lot of the girls from the JV level, so I feel really comfortable with what we have.”