PENDLETON — When two of the finest, collective diamond coaches tell you their teams had promise in 2020, you can take their word for it.
Veteran Starpoint High School skippers Tim Racey and Joe Hill were looking forward to the spring baseball and softball seasons, respectively, almost as much as their strong core of senior returners.
All-everything Niagara University-commit Joe Dell'Oso, the son of Spartans' athletics director Vincent “Vinny” Dell’Oso, was one of two Starpoint baseball captains in 2020.
An All-Western New York and Prep Baseball Report New York State Pitcher of the Week honoree as sophomore, the southpaw Dell'Oso battled back from arm injury and was “ready to go” this year, Racey said.
“He was our (Niagara) PAL Athlete Award winner and a Hewitt Award nominee — just a great kid and a wonderful student,” Racey said. Dell'Oso is featured in a separate story in today's sports edition.
Spartans co-captain Jacob Brooks was among the many other key baseball returners this season.
“Jacob would have been our starting third baseman and number five hitter,” Racey said. “A good athlete, he played football for us, too. Another scholar athlete averaging (in the mid-90s).”
Rounding out the garnet and gray's returning senior baseball players are outfielders Max Clarke and Joe Lombardo, and catcher Kyle Lemma.
“All those boys are high average students in the classroom,” Racey said, adding that he can't imagine the “heartbreak and sadness” of not being able to play.
“It was a wonderful spring, too — wonderful weather. We would have gotten in a lot of games in our schedule, I believe,” Racey said.
“We were also scheduled to go down to Myrtle Beach for a couple of games. My heart goes out to them. I'm truly heart broken for them,” Racey added.
Hill's Lady Spartans were especially primed in 2020 with the core of his team — seven seniors — returning, led by co-captain, ECIC 2 First Team all-star Tori Angelo, a four-year varsity player who's headed to bigger and brighter things next fall at SUNY Brockport.
“She came up as a freshman. She's a good pitcher and hitter. She's probably one of our most important players in the last two years,” Hill said. “Last year she took some big steps and we were really looking forward to seeing her perform this year.”
Two-year varsity returner Nicole Bennett was expected to see a lot of time in the outfield. Hill described her as, “a great kid who's super smart in the classroom and a scholar athlete for the team who's award we put on the wall in the school gym.”
Kellen Daboll is another two-year varsity returner in the outfield and a noted three-sport athlete (soccer, basketball, softball) for the school. “She started for us at least half the games last year,” Hill said. “She's an awesome kid, a real super hard worker and someone who's really involved in Unified Sports.”
Another key Starpoint loss to graduation this season will be catcher Lynnea Lemieux, whom Hill said would have caught every game this year.
“She's a good hitter and very good behind the plate. She catches both of our pitchers in the summer, so I couldn't have asked for anything better,” Hill said.
Emily Reed would have been Hill's number 2 pitcher to start the 2020 season.
“Emily would have been in the middle of the line-up, maybe the five-six range. She's a tall lefty, a super athlete in the field — real smooth defensively,” Hill said.
“She's definitely a gamer. She was our number two-three pitcher last year and probably pitched two of our biggest wins. She beat Williamsville South at Will South last year and she pitched the win when we beat a strong team from Virginia in Myrtle Beach.”
Kailey Schwab would have been Hill's starting third baseman this year. “Last year, as a junior, defensively, she was very dependable. In one game against Sweet Home, she had three putouts and eight assists — one of the best defensive games I've ever seen someone play,” Hill said.
Kayla Sterner returned to the Lady Spartans this spring after last playing as a freshman. She transferred to St. Mary's of Lancaster her sophomore and junior year and she definitely would have pushed for time in the outfield,” Hill said. “She's a good lefty slap hitter — aggressive, strong hitter with decent power.”
Hill said he expected Will East to dominate the league, but also expected his team to finish in the top three.
“We were a .500 team last year and I did lose five seniors to graduation, but I had a lot of those core girls coming back. It's disappointing,” Hill said.
Head coach — Justin Dougherty
First year Spartans net head coach Justin Dougherty had three seniors on the boys tennis roster this spring.
Riley Nesbit was Starpoint's top player and would have been a first or second singles player as the garnet and gray competed in the ECIC Division 2.
“A great kid. I was really impressed how he showed up for practices this year,” Dougherty said.
“I didn't coach him last year, but I could see how he'd been working real hard in the offseason. I was really impressed and excited to see him compete like he did and obviously, I'm very bummed we didn't get to see him play this year.”
Dougherty said competing for the top singles spot this season was senior Ethan Vannochie. “He was looking especially strong as well and definitely would been either one or two,” Dougherty said.
Andrew Sheedy would have found a spot on the Spartans' starting roster. “He's a good kid. I had him in pre-calc class,” Dougherty said.
Rounding out the net Spartans' senior contingent are Bradley Smith and Trevor Johnson.
“As a team, I think we were going to be competitive,” Dougherty said.
“My goal was the be over .500 this year. Last year, we finished just under .500, so I was looking to improve on that because our experience was pretty high this year. The good news is we'll be experienced next year as well.”
BOYS & GIRLS TRACK
Head coach — Jeff Hart
Entering his sixth year, head coach Jeff Hart's track Spartans were primed for another big run in the Erie County Inter-scholastic Conference.
Twenty one seniors at Starpoint were on the 2020 track roster. Here's a brief look at all of them, alphabetically by last name.
Mia Arnold started track as a sprinter in 7th grade and continued through her sophomore year, but in more recent years she's become less interested in running, but still wanted to support the team by helping run home meets and running around to help any way that she could. She will be attending Niagara University as a psychology major, Her favorite memories include messing around with friends in practice, playing hide-and-go-seek tag throughout the halls, and the excitement of watching all the relays.
Maddy Austin has been a high jumper since 7th grade and on varsity for four years. Her favorite memories include home meets, spending the whole day at invitationals with friends, competing at ECICs and sectionals, going to the Penn Relays and, “making some of the best friends I’ve ever had.” She will be attending Niagara University to study Early Childhood Education.
C.J. Bradley joined the track team this year in his senior year. “We knew he was going to be a huge asset to our sprints and jumps group. We wish him well in everything he does in the future,” coach Hart said.
Joe Carlson competed in the 100, 200 and high jump individually and was also part of the school's record-holding 4-by-100 meter relay. “We were really excited for Joe’s return this season as a dominant force for the boys sprint team,” Hart said.
Sara Danwin has been a distance runner at Starpoint since 7th grade and on the varsity for four years. Her favorite memories include spending all day at invitationals with friends, running through puddles in the nature trail and meeting her life-long best friends. She plans to attend NCCC for two years to study animal management then plans to transfer to Canisius to study zoology.
Jacob Dean said he'll always remember his time at the long jump pit with his friends. Dean ran in the 100 and 200 sprints and was part of the school record holding 4-by-100 meter relay. “He also was a fantastic long jumper for us,” Hart said. Dean plans to attend Buffalo State College to study criminal justice and plans to play football and run track for the Bengals.
Anya Fink has been on the varsity track team for four years, running both distance and sprint events. Her favorite memories include running in the woods, eating grapes, Chicken Techno, being on both the distance and sprinting team and making life-long friends. She plans to run Division 1 track for Niagara University and study criminal justice.
Lydia Gielow has been on varsity for four years, competing in the 400 and 800 runs as well as the 4-by-400 meter relay, 4-by-800 meter relay and the triple jump. Her favorite memories: include getting soaked in the rain/snow and getting covered in mud at invitationals, trying to set up the tent at invitationals, going to Penn Relays her sophomore year, placing and getting a patch at sectionals in her sophomore year and practices at Flips. She wished to thank coach Hart and coach Yoder for their extra time and dedication in her training. She plans to study Elementary Education at a college to be determined.
Joe Glaser has been a distance runner for the team and has attained the honorary title of “Coach Joe” due to his wise, sarcastic words when addressing the team to sometimes defuse tensions on the team. “His hard work and dedication on and off the track has prepared him for what is next to come and we cannot wait to see his success,” coach Hart said.
Kevin Johnson is part of the throwing group on the team which in itself is one of the foundations of the Starpoint team. “Kevin's dedication to the team mentality of track and field is unparalleled,” Hart said. “He even begs coach Hart for opportunities to infiltrate the 4-by-100 meter relay lineup for his chance at glory on the track. “We will miss you, Kevin and best of luck in the future!” Hart added.
Gavin Lyness said his favorite memories include, “running in triple, getting to jump that one time, always filling in on the 4-by-4, and getting to spend everyday with some of my best friends.” Lyness will be attending Army West Point and is thinking about majoring in Defense and Strategic Studies, but has not yet decided.
Tommy Mazgaj said his favorite memories consist of pole vaulting, “but mostly annoying Jeff and giving everyone on the team a nickname that they did not know I gave them.” Mazgaj plans to attend Niagara University and major in criminal justice
Gabby Molak ran the 100 meter hurdles and the 200 meter open race. She's been on varsity for four years. “I loved hanging with my friends and competing at invites,” she said. Gabby will attend NCCC for two years and then join the speech pathology program at Buffalo State College for another two years.
Olivia Molak ran the 400 hurdles, 100 hurdles and the 4-by-400 relay. Her favorite memory of track was being able to hang out with my friends. “The bus rides were sick, too,” she said. Olivia plans to attend NCCC to study secondary education.
Jaden Mott has been a huge part of the girls sprint team at Starpoint, running the 100 and 200 dashes and was part of the girls' 4-by-100m relay team. “She loved being with friends and enjoyed the thrill of competition and meet days. Best of luck to you in whatever you choose to do in the future,” Hart said.
Stephanie Penna has been running track since 7th grade, participating in the 800, 1,500 and the 4-by-800 relay. Her favorite track memories include, bus rides with Lydia and, “her annoying me by singing,” getting food after the meets with friends, “and joining sprinting for the two days we had track in my senior year.” Her future plans include, going to Niagara County Community College for two years, then attending Canisius College to study Early Childhood Education.
Amanda Schurr is a six-year senior and the glue to the team, Hart said. “As a coach, I will be at a loss without her,” Hart said. Schurr's event was the pole vault, but she was also a hurdler, ran cross country in the fall, then she tried pentathlon and during indoor even competed in the racewalk. “She also barely ever missed an off-season workout. It goes without saying that her passion for competition and not allowing herself to be limited in her skills was something you rarely see as a track coach,” Hart said. “She was the ‘mom’ of the pole vaulters and a pure leader of voice and example. We will miss you Amanda. Best of luck!”
Ethan Sodaro was on varsity track for five years. His favorite track memories include standing in the rain at Cheektowaga for 30 minutes to run a 400, “and meeting some of my best friends and making memories that will last forever and of course being a part of the triplets.” Ethan will be attending Buffalo State College and will be running both cross country and track while studying biology.
Kellen Stenman is a three-season runner as a member on the cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track teams. “Kellen had a standout Indoor track season, claiming the school record for the 1,000 meters,” Hart said. In the outdoor season, Kellen ran the 800 and 3,200, along with relays. “Kellen is a hard working athlete and a great teammate. He is known for making his teammates and coaches laugh,” Hart said.
Grace Vieaux has been on the varsity team for four years, competing in the triple jump and sprint events. Her favorite track memories include being with her friends, “singing the whole bus ride home with Shayla, Jaden, Liv, Lydia, Emily and Gab and getting in trouble almost every day.” She plans on attending SUNY Cortland and majoring in Early Childhood Education.
Rounding out the roster of senior Starpoint track athletes in 2020 are Aidan Kirk and Nolan Meredith.