By Ida Ynner Lagerqvist
Entering preseason, knowing it’s their last one as Pioneers, the LIU Post softball team has its goal set. With a team lead by upperclassmen, their final destination on their last ride is a spot in the World Series.
Last year, the team made it to the East Super Regional and ended up as one of the top 16 teams in the country. They were two games away from the World Series, which is the last portion of the NCAA National Championship where the last eight teams meet. This year, entering his 21st and last season as LIU Post head softball coach Jamie Apicella wants to make it further. “Our goal is to get into the NCAAs to have a chance to play for the regional championship and then also the national championship,” he said.
Senior pitcher Hannah Olshevski, an LIU Post health science major, is also determined to make it all the way to the World Series. “That has been our goal since we got here,” she said.
To make it all the way to the NCAAs, the team has to be successful in their conference. “What is unique about softball is that you play so many games. We play 56 games and we play each conference opponent four times,” Apicella said. “We try to win the regular season to be able to host the East Coast Conference tournament.” Apicella hopes those achievements will lead the team to the national tournament.
An experienced group of players who will chase the championship titles. “We have pretty much our whole team returning. We only lost one starting player from last year,” Olshevski said. Coach Apicella sees this as one of the team’s biggest strengths. “Our strength is our upperclassmen who have experience. We have a returning senior class that has been instrumental not just going into this year but the last three seasons,” he said.
In company with the returning seniors, junior pitcher Katie Humhej and junior outfield player Abbey Fortin return. Humhej and Fortin were recently named ECC preseason pitcher and player of the year. Last year Humhej was chosen as ECC pitcher of the year and Fortin as ECC player of the year. “We have a very talented junior class,” Apicella said. “Then we have the sophomores that are obviously complementing that and some impactful freshmen. We have a very strong team.”
With a clear goal and a strong roster, the softball team is ready for their last first game. The announcement of a merger between the LIU Post and LIU Brooklyn athletic teams will make this upcoming season the softball program’s last. After dealing with a lot of emotions, they decided to stay focused on softball and stick together. A new hashtag was created, #onelastride, and the team gained motivation. “I feel like this brought everyone together,” senior catcher Julia Seader, sociology major, said. “It’s one last time for the Post softball team.”
Apicella also thinks that the “One LIU” announcement gave the team an additional thing to play for. “I think there is a little bit more motivation for us to get to that pinnacle, which is the national championship. Not only for themselves and the coaching staff but also for all the alumnae and the history of the program,” he said. “I know that they are playing for them too.”
Going into the season, Apicella says all players are excited for softball and they do not talk about the merger. “As we start to get towards the end of the season maybe those emotions might creep in again, but hopefully we are playing for a conference championship game and a regional championship game and we are still excited about the possibilities we have,” he said.
After the season, players who aren’t graduating will either transfer to other institutions to continue their softball collegiate careers or stay at the school without playing. According to Apicella, the opportunity to stay and play after the merger was not offered to his LIU Post players.
The team starts their one last ride on March 3 in Florida against one of their biggest threats in the region. “We open with Saint Anselm College. They have the best pitcher in the region right now so I think that’s our strongest opponent we will face all season,” Apicella said.
The Pioneers’ first home game is on March 14 against Adelphi University in Brookville.
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.