BY MICHAEL KELLY
NISKAYUNA — With a small roster made up of small athletes, the focus this preseason for the Niskayuna softball team has been on figuring out ways for the Silver Warriors to manufacture enough runs to be competitive in the Suburban Council.
To that end, head coach Julius Paul’s squad has started every preseason workout with offensive drills and introduced live pitching into its batting practice sessions much earlier than in past seasons.
“But we’re not a power team and we’re not talking about swinging for the fences,” Paul said at a recent practice.
And that’s for an obvious reason.
“If you look at us, there’s nobody really over 5-foot-5,” said Lauren Litz, the team’s senior second baseman, who also pitches.
Niskayuna is looking to build on the second half of its 2014 season. After an 0-4 start last year, the Silver Warriors played .500 softball the rest of the way and made it to sectionals before falling to Colonie in their season finale.
That ending left Paul optimistic heading into this past offseason and that confidence was rewarded. Informal open gym softball sessions were well-attended, he said, and players who saw infrequent playing time a year ago showed vast improvement.
“They’ve busted it for the last year and it has shown,” he said.
Leading the Silver Warriors this season will be senior Stacy Gordon, the team’s primary pitcher, who also plays first base. Gordon — who is committed to play Division I softball at Lafayette College — led the squad last year in home runs and RBIs besides pitching the most innings for Niskayuna.
“She kind of does everything for us,” Paul said.
At present, Niskayuna needs do-everything players. Only 11 players make up the Silver Warriors’ varsity roster for 2015 and only 20 players showed up to try out for the program’s varsity and junior varsity squads. A pair of eighth-graders were added to the JV roster to give that team 11 players, but Paul is not too worried about his program’s numbers.
“We’re trying to rebuild from the bottom up,” he said. “Right now, I’m very excited for our varsity and JV seasons, but I think we’re going to have our most competitive modified team in the past decade.”
Litz said the varsity team is trying to look at its small roster as an advantage.
“It’s difficult because if someone is having a bad day, there aren’t a lot of options to sub in,” she said. “But it also benefits us because you also get used to playing with the same girls all the time.”
Fewer players means more repetitions at practice for each Silver Warrior, Gordon added. The senior said the combination of extra time devoted to offense this preseason and the club’s small roster has the Silver Warriors believing their offense will be a force for the season’s scheduled April 7 start against Ballston Spa.
Before that season opener, though, Gordon said the Silver Warriors will keep their noses to the grindstone.
“We’re not a team that’s a powerhouse,” said Gordon. “We have a lot of heart and we need to work hard.”