By Matt Parrino
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — New North Tonawanda softball coach Samantha Rajski has done it all on the softball diamond.
The former Frontier standout, who helped lead the Falcons to the Section VI AA championship and to states her senior season, brings a winning pedigree to a NT softball team that failed to win a single game last season.
Rajski, who played college softball at St. Bonaventure, said that despite the struggles in the past she is optimistic about this season.
"I didn't want them to dwell on last year," she said. "We (feel like we've already) really turned things around and we try to be very positive. They're learning so much. I think we'll be in the right mind frame to go out and compete with these teams."
The Lady Jacks, who opened their season with a 16-4 loss to Newfane on Tuesday, are led by senior pitcher Kelsey Ross, who teams with catcher Lyssa Carlson to form a dynamic pitcher-catcher combination.
Ross has aspirations of playing college softball and Rajski said Carlson's ability to manage Ross on the hill really helps to keep her calm.
"Kelsey is a crazy young girl," Rajski said. "She is always laughing, smiling and having fun, but she is very serious and hard-working. She is a great student-athlete in what I've seen from her. She is very involved in the school. She has great grades and she is setting her goals high for college, which I think is awesome. She's definitely a leader and someone to look up to."
Leading the offensive attack is Amber Schmigel, who will hit clean up for Rajski. The senior has a lot of power and knows the game well, Rajski said.
Sara Bunker will lead off in the designated hitter spot, Amanda Szynkowski will hit second and play center field and sophomore Heather Fontana will move back to her natural position at shortstop after playing last season in the outfield because of an arm injury.
Fontana, who will be in the three-hole, is Rajski's player to watch because of her raw natural ability on the field.
"She is very athletic and she has a strong arm and moves well in the field," Rajski said. "She is a good hitter and has some power. I'm expecting a lot out of her. I think she could have a breakout season."
Natalie Harrack bats fifth at second base, Olivia Miller bats seventh in right field, Cassidy Powers is in left field and in the eight-spot and Rachel Wieclaw will bat ninth and play first base.
Rajski's experience at the college level is an asset for her new team, who will be able to learn things about the game that Rajski said she didn't learn until she got to St. Bonaventure.
The first-year coach is hoping that the work ethic the team has already demonstrated will translate into wins this season.
"It's one of the best times of your life to get out there and play," she said. "No one ever expected our team at Frontier to ever do what we did. You never know, we had a great group of girls and that's what helped us out. I think all my experiences are helping them because I've learned so much through everything I've done. … The girls have really shown me that they want to work at it and that's what shows me that I can help."Projected NT lineup: 1 -- Sara Bunker (DH) 2 -- Amanda Szynkowski (CF) 3 -- Heather Fontana (SS) 4 -- Amber Schmigel (3B) 5 -- Natalie Harrack (2B) 6 -- Lyssa Carlson (C) 7 -- Olivia Miller (RF) 8 -- Cassidy Powers (LF) 9 -- Rachel Wieclaw (1B)