One of these days, South Philadelphia softball teams are going to surprise the rest of the city. Some of the local squads believe that day is nearing.
But as great as winning a championship would be this season, the athletes aren’t striving quite that high. All five local teams have yet to claim a title.
In reality, some of the squads will be happy to finish with a .500 record, while others believe the playoffs are within reach. Here is a team-by-team look at the 2003 season.
Team: St. Maria Goretti Lambs
Coach: Chip Reitano
Home field: Palumbo Rec, 10th and Moore streets
Reitano wants to bring a winning mentality back to Goretti athletics. He knows that transition will take some time, especially after last year’s one-win season. It’s why the team is avoiding any playoff talk this early.
Reitano is more concerned about creating a relaxed and fun atmosphere where the girls can enjoy playing softball again.
"The fear of making a mistake was really preventing them from playing at their best," the coach said. "Now they have a lot of enthusiasm and smiles on their faces. Where it takes us, we’ll find out soon enough."
2002 recap: The Lambs finished 1-11 and missed the Catholic League playoffs.
On the mound: Senior Lisa DiStefano will once again be the Lambs’ top pitcher, and Reitano said she has the potential to be an All-Catholic selection.
"She did a terrific job of keeping a struggling team in every game last year," the coach noted.
Junior Kim Jannelli will share the pitching duties.
In the field: The Lambs have two First Team All-Catholic selections returning in sophomores Megan Kelly, a catcher, and Alicia Klevechia, a shortstop. Senior center-fielder Heather Cacciola is a returning Second Team All-Catholic. Junior Devon Loskiewictz will play first; sophomore Kristi Sandefur is at second; senior Shannon Moran will handle third; and junior Lindsay Chitwood is the right-fielder.
Teams to beat: Archbishop Carroll, Cardinal O’Hara and Archbishop Prendergast
Goals: Get more wins, be competitive with a chance to win in the sixth and seventh innings and strive for the playoffs.
Coach’s outlook: "I see this team being much improved and having fun playing softball. I think the Catholic League is going to be surprised by Goretti."
Team: Bok Wildkittens
Coach: Greg Frangipani
Home field: 11th and Bigler streets
Finishing with a .500 record is quite an accomplishment at Eighth and Mifflin streets. When the team closed the 2002 season with a 5-5 mark, it topped the win total from the previous four seasons combined. It might be a rare feat, but Frangipani and his players will do their best to match it.
2002 recap: Despite the respectable finish, the Wildkittens missed the playoffs.
On the mound: Junior Jessica Walker is returning for her third season.
In the field: Senior Melissa Busillo is a returning All-Public at shortstop; also key to the squad are Jasmina McCullers, junior catcher; Tania Miller, junior infielder; Danaya Boyer, junior third baseman; and Sheleka Ford, senior outfielder.
Teams to beat: Franklin Learning Center, Olney and University City
Goals: Finish with a .500 record.
Coach’s outlook: "If we could go .500 again this year, I’d be thrilled. If we have a winning record, it would be phenomenal."
Team: GAMP Pioneers
Coach: Frank Cipparone
Home field: Seventh Street and Packer Avenue
If the GAMP softball team follows the example set by its baseball counterparts, it will be playing for a Public League title in 2004. Since nine of the 14 players are freshmen and sophomores, it makes sense to work on a two-year plan. Many of the girls are returning starters with playoff experience, giving the local squad an edge.
Cipparone, who is entering his third season as coach, said he has cause for optimism this year. Two years ago, the Pioneers were eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs, while last season, they nearly upset Washington in the quarterfinals. The next step is finding a way to advance to the final four.
"We think this can be the year we step up in class," Cipparone said. "I think that game against Washington showed that when we play the game well, we are capable of beating anybody."
2002 recap: The Pioneers finished
9-13 overall and lost to Washington in the Public League quarterfinals.
On the mound: Sophomore Angelica Malatino is a returning All-Public selection who pitched in last year’s quarterfinal game.
In the field: Senior shortstop Kristina
Kelly is a two-time All-Public selection; Lisa Vongphachanh, senior center-fielder; Anna Baccari, junior left-fielder; Kendall Nealis, sophomore catcher; Dana DePasquale, sophomore catcher; and Jessica Barbuto, senior first baseman, are also expected to play crucial roles.
Teams to beat: Central, Washington, Northeast and Girls’ High
Goals: Finish fourth and advance to the Public League semifinals.
Coach’s outlook: "If we don’t advance to the semifinals this year, then we don’t show the progress we need to. Once we get there, we have as good of a shot as anyone."
Team: Southern Lady Rams
Coach Bob Fisicaro
Home field: 13th Street and Oregon Avenue
The Lady Rams have experience and talent, and Fisicaro is hoping that’s enough to make Southern a Public League playoff team. The key will be keeping everybody healthy and academically eligible, as the team enters the season short on depth.
"They are optimistic," the coach said. "The seniors want to go out winners."
2002 recap: The Lady Rams finished 5-6 and missed the playoffs by one game.
On the mound: Junior Katrina Leopanto is back to handle the pitching.
In the field: Senior Jazzman Ingram is a returning All-Public catcher. The team also has a very experienced infield in seniors Iyesha Brown, first base; Brandy Leopanto, second base; and Shyeema Robinson, shortstop. Juniors Renellis Brown, center field; Jessica Benson, third base, and sophomore Kristen Allen also are expected to make contributions.
Goals: Make the playoffs and have a winning season.
Coach’s outlook: "The weather has been against us. As the weather changes, this team is going to improve."
Team: Furness Falcons
Coach: Nancy Nayowith
Home field: Third Street and Oregon Avenue
Things can’t get much worse for the Lady Falcons after last year’s winless season. Second-year coach Nancy Nayowith is still recruiting players who want to help get Furness back in the Bronze Division win column. The coach wasn’t available at press time.
Catholic League Southern Division Final Standings
Little Flower 6-6
West Catholic 2-10
Public League 2002 Final Standings
Girls’ High 10-4
William Penn 7-7
Straw. Mansion 4-7
Simon Gratz 1-10
University City 7-2
West Philadelphia 2-8