Cougars Swinging Back After ‘Heartbreaking’ Season

COMMACK, New York, Mar. 26

BY: Andrew Wroblewski

The Commack High School softball program has a reputation – one that its coaching staff and players are ready to shake loose.

Senior Jillian McFadzen, left, is one of six seniors on this year’s Commack softball squad, which is expected to lead the Cougars through their 2015 campaign.
Senior Jillian McFadzen, left, is one of six seniors on this year’s Commack softball squad, which is expected to lead the Cougars through their 2015 campaign.

“It’s been over 25 years since we’ve won a county championship,” Harold Cooley, head coach, said. “We’re always in the mix and we’re always seeded highly in the playoffs, but we get caught – we get snagged in a tough situation against a tough team and sometimes it just hasn’t panned out.”

After finishing the League I season in 2014 with a record of 15-5, Commack moved on to the playoffs but eventually fell in the second round via a walk-off home run by eventual Suffolk County champion, Half Hollow Hills West.

That stung, several of the seniors on this year’s team said, but they’re using it as momentum to bounce back.

“Mentally, they’re all prepared… They’re looking at trying to accomplish things that we’ve never accomplished in the program,” the eight-year coach said.

It all starts with those seniors – all six of them – and the leadership they bring, he said.

“Coming off of last year, we finished really strong – we definitely played together,” Jillian McFadzen, a senior and third baseman, said. “This year, we all have the same goal.”

That goal is to still be playing when the 2015 New York State Public High School Athletic Association tournament begins on June 14 at Moreau Park in South Glens Falls.

“Last year did not end how we wanted it to – it was heartbreaking,” Gabriella Gambino, senior first baseman, said. “But it’s giving us a lot of momentum and strength to come back even stronger.”

Looking towards the 2015 campaign, which was set to begin after press time on Tuesday, Gambino explained that the Cougars have more than high hopes – they have high standards.

“Maybe we’ll even go undefeated, who knows?” she said.

In order to keep that goal of an undefeated season alive, the Cougars are focusing on their ability to stick together to win games.

“One of our strengths is that we’re like a big family, we’re always together,” Alyssa Persich, a senior centerfielder, said. “Whenever someone gets down, we’re always there to pick them up.”

Cougar companionship aside – although he did stress it as one of Commack’s strengths – Cooley explained that it’s not just one aspect of the Cougars’ game that’s going to help them find success; it’s just about every aspect.

“What’s kind of crazy is that I think we cover all the tools,” he said. “I have tons of maneuverability… We have the power kids, we have the kids who get on base, we have the kids who can steal bases – I think half the reason why this team is going to be successful is because they’re all athletic.”

Weather permitting, the Cougars are set to next take the field on Thursday at Ward Melville High School, with the start scheduled for 4:15 p.m.

Originally published: Long Islander News: The Record
(Thursday, Mar. 26, 2015;  A22)


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