Clarke features mix of seniors, youth


Clarke returned some impact players from a 15-win team that reached the Nassau Class A softball championship series last spring and also has a new coach with former bench boss Rachel Barry now serving as East Meadow’s athletic director.

Alex Abanavas, a 2010 Clarke graduate and the Rams’ JV baseball coach for the past 10 years, is now at the helm of the softball program and working with a roster that’s mixed with experience and youth.

“It’s a really great group of girls that made my transition easier,” he said. “We have a roster that’s set up to be successful now and in the future. We’re planning to play a lot of close and competitive games.”

The Rams are in Conference 2 and tangle with defending county Class B champion Seaford, Wantagh, Carey, Mineola, Division, Plainview and Herricks twice apiece.

Abanavas is counting on a pair of award winners to lead the way. Seniors Maddy Millman (second base) and Michelle Diaz (center field) were Honorable Mention All-County in 2023 and are part of the heart of the batting order. “They’re leaders on and off the field,” he said. “Both are three-sport athletes and going to play softball at the collegiate level.”

Millman, who played volleyball in the fall an basketball in the winter, hit .305 with 15 RBIs and the coach is expecting her to show increased power and run production. “She just continues to get better,” Abanavas said.

Diaz, a field hockey and basketball player, batted .320 with 4 homers and 25 RBIs a year ago while anchoring the outfield defense. “She’s a big power threat and a strong defensive outfielder,” Abanavas said.

Setting the offensive table once again is senior shortstop Avika Mehta, another three-sport athlete (soccer and basketball) who last spring hit .305, scored 15 runs and knocked in 10. “She’s one of our most consistent all-around players,” the coach noted. “She’s a speed threat at the top of the lineup with an outstanding glove, arm and range at shortstop. She does everything well.”

Avika’s twin sister, Aanya Mehta, also played soccer and basketball and is being counted on to flip the lineup over and provide speed. She’s rock-steady at first base, Abanavas said, and freshman Sienna Diana is up from JV to take over at third base.

Sophomore Ava Porth could give Aanya a breather at first base when she’s not catching. She’ll split time behind the plate with junior Sabrina Lee. Porth is an excellent contact hitter with good pop and coming off a huge JV season. Lee’s strengths include blocking, receiving and a quick release.

Freshman Analinda Moran is the No. 1 pitcher. Up from JV, she relies heavily on command and mixing speeds. Eighth-grader Destiny Cervantes is No. 2 on the staff.

The outfield outside of Diaz is full of youth. Sophomore Olivia Giardino, another top JV performer last spring, is starting in left. Freshmen Leila Thakkar and Emily Diaz, Michelle’s younger sister, will contribute in right.