West Hempstead retools with youth


It’s back to basics for the West Hempstead softball team.

Following a 12-2 performance last spring, the Rams are off to a slow start in 2023 with a 2-6 mark (2-5 in Conference V) that includes their current three-game losing streak at press time. Because there is no JV team, coach Chris Van Kovics has had to adapt a baptism by fire approach to his young roster that has just three seniors.

Graduation stripped the team of last year’s pitching staff and catcher among others, so many of the players are assuming roles they are unfamiliar with. But Van Kovics welcomed the idea of carrying his teaching skills from his gymnasium classroom to the field.

“We’re very young and we’re very inexperienced, but we are getting better,” he said. “We’re just trying to have clean innings and trying to score some runs. But when you’re not used to the situation, it’s a challenge.”

Senior Ashlee Boodoo volunteered to take the hill in addition to her first base job and was the winning pitcher in consecutive games at Hewlett (March 30) and Great Neck South (April 3). The lefty leadoff hitter helped herself by going 4-for-5 with a double and four runs scored against Hewlett.

“I’ve known her since she was in first grade,” Van Kovics said. “Softball’s her sport. She’s a leader, she’s tough [and] she puts the team first. The example is being a pitcher, which she’s really not.”

Freshman Valarie Schreck is the team’s other hurler and could get a bulk of the starts down the stretch to give her more experience. Van Kovics noticed an improvement in her latter appearances and how she could grow further with better control.

“She has limited experience as a pitcher,” he said. “She needs to throw 365 days a year. But she’s getting better.”

Junior third baseman Samantha Mitchell was one of the hitting stars against Great Neck South by going 2-for-4 with four runs scored. Another junior, utility player and second-place batter Emma Shinsato, added a pair of hits and scored three times.

Senior shortstop Kayla Pendergast has had a strong start in the three-hole and hits the ball hard to all fields. Van Kovics called her the leader of the infield who uses her patented swipe tag to help thwart would-be base stealers while gathering throws from new catcher Gabriella Koodsi.

Thanks to her previous outfield experience, Koodsi was the logical choice to be the backstop because of her strong arm and is also a good contact hitter from the sixth position. From there, Van Kovics is hoping that the bottom third of the order can soon start producing and spark rallies.

“The veterans have put good at-bats together,” he said. “But when you get down to the lower end of the batting order, you need some production out of there to turn the order over and we’re struggling down there.”

The Rams began this week with a visit to Floral Park and host Hewlett on Thursday before traveling to Manhasset on Saturday.