As the LIU Post softball season gets underway, the team is looking to build on a successful 2015 campaign, during which they went 32-17-1. The Pioneers had a very strong showing in conference last season as well, going 22-6.
Just two years ago, the Pioneers were NCAA East Region Champions, the fourth time the Pioneers have held that honor since 2007. The head coach who is tagged with bringing the Pioneers back to the promise land is Jamie Apicella.
“Our emphasis all preseason has been to be a more contact conscience team and cut down on strikeouts,” Apicella said about this year’s efforts. “We also would like to improve our on base percentage and average more runs per game. Our offense was down in all categories last season and because of it our pitchers were under more pressure.”
This sounds familiar. The Kansas City Royals, the team that won the 2015 World Series, sounds like the epitome of the team Apicella wants to have this season. The Royals are a contact team to the heart and rarely swing and miss.
One of those pitchers under pressure last season was junior Ashley Martin. Martin was recently named the East Coast Conference Preseason Pitcher of the Year. In 2015, Martin earned ECC Pitcher of the Year honors and Division II All-East Region first-team accolades. She boasted an 18-6 record, with a 1.61 earned-run average and 120 strikeouts.
Apicella’s desire for more runs is a legitimate one, and one that will no longer be on the shoulders of Aly Dzierzynski. In a Pioneer uniform, Dzierzynski accumulated a .346 lifetime average with 51 career home runs and 205 runs batted in. Her 51 career round trippers shattered the program mark set by Christie Softy from 2007-10.
The former catcher now works as an assistant coach at LIU Post for Apicella. He still sees her as a valuable asset to the team and a positive influence on the younger players. Dzierzynski has experienced “everything a softball player can experience,” Apicella said. Dzierzynski’s softball resume includes four NCAA appearances, a College World Series appearance and conference championships. Not too shabby.
The LIU Post women’s softball team is a model of consistency. They have reached 14 straight NCAA Division II tournaments. Apicella said it’s because of the culture of the program.
“The alumni and seniors that graduate continue to pass the key. They make it loud and clear what is expected from the younger players to keep the tradition going. Every member of this team understands that we expect their best on a daily basis.”
Getting student-athletes to gel and mesh together is a challenge, but it’s one Apicella is up for.
“We have always recruited the ‘right fit’ player,” he said. “Excellent student first, softball player second. We want student-athletes that have a strong work ethic and are goal oriented. We do not want student-athletes that cut corners and take the easy way out. All these characteristics make a true team. A team that will sacrifice and commit to one another to achieve a common goal,” he said.
The Pioneers’ season begins with a 10 game road trip in Clermont, Fl. on Sunday, March 6, against the University of the Sciences.
Their first home game is scheduled for Sunday, March 20, against Stonehill College. First-pitch is set for 11 a.m.
This article was originally published in the Pioneer, the award-winning student newspaper of LIU Post, www.liupostpioneer.com, and is republished here by Blank Slate Media with the permission of the Pioneer.