By MIKE SMITH
After a stellar 2013 campaign that saw them win 20 games, the Eastchester Eagles are back on the field this spring, retooled with a veteran-laden team looking to reestablish itself as one of the premiere programs in Section I.
When the squad opens up play on April 1, it should certainly be among the Class A favorites right off the bat.
Despite losing a pair of senior standouts in pitcher Danielle Cacciola and catcher Kristin Martin‑the pair combined to drive in 52 runs and club 11 homers last year‑the Eagles should be poised for another big year, thanks to a number of key returnees.
Senior pitcher Francesca Chiodi is tabbed to be Eastchester’s ace this spring, after impressing with a good showing in 2013. Last year, as a junior, Chiodi tallied five wins as Eastchester’s number-two starter, posting a miniscule ERA of .19 and notching 36 Ks in as many innings of work. She seemed to find her groove late in the season, picking up three shutout wins in her last four starts, including a postseason blanking of Harrison on May 30.
“She had a great year last year,” Eastchester coach Chris Walpole said of Chiodi. “She just always happened to be behind some other great pitchers we’ve had.”
Offensively, Walpole said the Eagles will rely on production from senior outfielder Ashley Petrone, who is coming off an impressive season in her own right. In 2013, Petrone hit .468 and scored 19 runs for Eastchester. This year, Petrone should anchor the lineup alongside fellow senior Casey Dell’area who drove in 17 runs last season and slugged 10 extra-base hits.
“Casey will be another other of our outfielders,” Walpole said. “We’re expecting her to be one of our power hitters this year.”
Other returnees, like Alexis Ventarola‑.383, 22 runs‑should help give the Eagles the same sort of balanced lineup that plagued opposing pitchers last year.
In addition to a tough league schedule, the Eagles will play a tough non-conference slate this year.
“My expectations are high,” Walpole said. “We always play tough competition in the hopes that it will get us ready for the postseason. Last year, we played both [AA and A] section champs [Tappan Zee and Carmel] and we’re looking to play a good schedule again.”
Eastchester opens the season on April 1 against Ursuline.