Lakeside struggled through a winless season in 2022, but head coach Chad Kuchenmeister is confident the Dragons have positioned themselves to change their fortunes this spring.
With five returning starters and four others—to go along with a much more in-depth offseason training program, the Dragons are optimistic heading into the 2023 season.
“For us, it was important to come right out of the gate having a good round-year offseason program because it was my first year running that kind of a program,” Kuchenmeister said. “Last year, I was hired in early February so I didn’t get to do a whole lot in that area. Coming into this season, we have everyone but two graduated seniors coming back, but we are still a relatively younger team with a majority of sophomores on our team. I think we can really be competitive much more than we were last year as long as what we pick up where we left off.”
The Dragons have more experience than they began the year with last spring, and Kuchenmeister believes that will lead to more consistency, and hopefully, more success.
“Our big expectations in general will be to be competitive in every game,” he said. “We are playing some tough teams this year so it’ll be nice to add to the experience. Obviously, the big goal is to win, but win more than one game.”
Kuchenmeister will lean heavily on senior Adalena Torino, who will pitch and fill in anywhere else she is needed.
“Addy is our powerhouse senior captain this year,” Kuchenmeister said. “She is the player that loves softball, will do anything to play softball, and goes 110 percent all of the time. She is a two-year letterman and will pitch, play center field, and will even possibly see a little bit of shortstop as well. She’s speedy and is a great fly ball tracker.”
Senior shortstop Kiara May also will play a key role for the Dragons this season.
She is a returning starter and a player who leads by example.
“She is a silent leader, but she’s the athlete that does what she needs to do,” Kuchenmeister said. “You can tell by watching her that she’s really put the work in from last year to this year. She is going to be taking over as our primary shortstop and a little bit of third. Her hitting in the cage has improved big time.”
Lakeside’s other seniors in the projected starting lineup include Ireland Noble, who will play first, and third baseman Mariah Gildersleeve.
The rest of the projected starting lineup includes sophomores Jada Lavender, Lucie Cole, Kailoni Figueroa, Sophia Matrisciano, Savannah Crites, and Quinn Noble.
Jada Lavender is a returning starter behind the dish.
Cole will play second, Figueroa will be in left field and either Crites or Noble will play right.
Matrisciano has been impressive in earning the starting nod in center field.
“Sophia is new to the program after transferring over from another school,” Kuchenmeister said. “She is someone that will fill the holes in our program. She’s a lefty hitter and will see some outfield time.”
Sophomore Jules Lavender will provide depth and serve as Torino’s backup in the circle.
Sophomore Emily Mohney, Matrisciano, Crites, and sophomore Aubrey Lavender also will chew up some innings for the Dragons.
“Our varsity girls that have returned loved this sport and have shown the dedication time in and out again,” Kuchenmeister said. “That is a big thing to have that us coaches love to do. If you can have anyone who’s dedicated, it makes coaching them a lot of a big difference. We have to win early in our season to get the girls the taste of winning. Everything will fall into place after that. But, it’s doing the little things right, showing up on time to school and practice, getting good grades, and bonding with your teammates.”