Hofstra seeks return to prominence


After a rare down season for Hofstra softball, the Pride is geared for a turnaround spring thanks to some talented additions.

Despite posting its 27th straight winning season, Hofstra missed out on qualifying for the Colonial Athletic Association for the first time in program history with an 8-10 record in the league. Hofstra added eight talented newcomers this year that combined with a core of returning veterans third-year head coach Larissa Anderson hopes will lead to a return trip to the CAAs and a run at conference title.

“We’re real excited to get a fresh start,” said Anderson, who prior to taking over the program was an assistant coach at Hofstra for 13 years under the legendary Bill Edwards and in 2015 guided the Pride to their 11th NCAA Tournament appearance in 13 years. “We have a bunch of fresh faces.”

Freshman pitcher Sarah Cornell is among the key additions to Bill Edwards Softball Stadium and the Clarke High School product raced out of the gate with a 5-0 start. Cornell, who won the Gatorade New York State Player of the Year as a senior at Clarke, earned CAA Rookie of the Week Honors on Feb. 28 after posting a 0.64 earned run average in FGCU Invitational with 15 strikeouts in 22 innings pitched.

“She is extremely competitive,” said Anderson of Cornell, who pitched six years at the high school varsity level. “She is committed and disciplined in every aspect of her game.”

Cornell anchors a pitching staff that also includes 6-1 freshman Ashley Irons, who was a 2016 All-Ohio First-Team selection. Senior Jessica Peslak adds experience in the pitcher’s circle and went 17-10 with 88 strikeouts as a junior.

Sophomore catcher Brittany Allocca anchors the Pride’s pitching staff with strong leadership behind the plate. The Stormville, N.Y. native led the team with nine home runs while hitting .336 with 32 RBIs.

Hofstra’s returns offensive firepower led by junior first-team All-CAA selections Nikki Michalowski (first base) and classmate Brielle Pietrafesa (right field) along with senior second-team conference pick Lacey Clark (second base). Michalowski smacked eight home runs with a .305 batting average last season while Pietrafesa hit .307 with seven long balls. Clark led Hofstra in hitting through the Pride’s first 13 games with a .421 average and last year ranked second on the team with 11 doubles.

“They have experience playing at a high level,” said Anderson of Michalowski, Pietrafesa and Clark. “Their dedication to themselves and to the program is at another level.”

Junior third baseman Megan Patierno got off of the gate strong in 2017 with 10 RBS in her first 13 games The Montville, N.J. native rocked a grand slam in a 14-6 win against Binghamton on Feb. 18 in Clearwarer, Fla.

A rookie addition to the lineup contributing off the bat is freshman shortstop Kristin Halam, who broke the school record at New Jersey’s Nottingham High School with a .591 average last year. Halam native was hitting .311 after the first two weeks of the season while anchoring the middle infield.

“I have never had a freshman start in the middle infield,” said Anderson, who has coached with the Hofstra softball program since 2003. “She plays like an experienced veteran.”

Hofstra’s home opener is slated for March 21 against Fordham at 3 p.m. The Pride kick off CAA play on March 25 against defending conference champion James Madison in a double header staring at 2 p.m.

Hofstra was picked to finish third in the CAA and is looking for a return to the league tournament in May by placing in the top four. James Madison, which was picked to repeat as CAA champions, entered March ranked No. 13 nationally.