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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Lalli Finishing Strong for Eagles

Janine Lalli (Gold) had her heart set on being a catcher when she first began playing softball.

Lalli liked being involved in every pitch and aspect of the game. However, her coaches decided Lalli would have an impact in the circle.

"The coaches told me I had to pitch because I was only one who could reach the plate," said the Eastchester senior, with a laugh.

Her first coaches would be right in making Lalli pitch, for it would be a precursor to what has been an outstanding high school career.

Lalli, a five-year varsity starter, has been an impact player, as a pitcher and shortstop since she debuted on varsity as an eighth-grader under retired Eastchester coach Skip Walsh. The previous four years Lalli — who will attend Marist and play softball next year — had shared pitching duties with Noelle McDonough, who graduated last June.

This season, Lalli is Eastchester's primary pitcher and displaying a dominance that has led the Eagles to a 14-1 record, including a 14-game winning streak.

"I have always liked having control of the game and I like knowing that I can't let my teammates down." said Lalli, who plans on majoring in Chemistry at Marist.

Lalli has been in complete control this season. She is currently 9-1, including five shutouts, with a 0.44 earned run average. Teams are hitting a paltry .144 against her, allowing just 23 hits.

Lalli has rung up 122 strikeouts and walked only 11 in 63 innings. She is also giving opposing pitchers nightmares, hitting .548 (23 for 42) with 23 runs scored, six doubles, a triple, four home runs and 23 RBI.

"Last summer I worked on making my body stronger and becoming a better athlete," Lalli said. "I also pitched every weekend, Saturday and Sunday, with my travel team."

Following a break at the conclusion of fall ball, Lalli resumed throwing once open gym commenced in December.

"I was throwing three, four times a week," Lalli said. "I feel that I have added more pitches this year. I'm doing a better job of setting hitters up and I got a few tips from my college softball coach."

As dominant as she is in the circle, Lalli excels at shortstop. She has outstanding range, is sure-handed and possesses a strong arm.

"Janine has a work ethic that is second to none," first-year Eastchester coach Chris Walpole said. "She will stay after practice and constantly work. Even on off days, she will organize the team and practice.

"Janine is also the ultimate competitor. She deserves what she has gotten because of her work ethic."

Lalli's impact goes beyond statistics, though. Lalli is the leader of a young Eastchester team. She recalled encouragement she received as a seventh-grader and has chosen to do the same.

"I was pitching in an open gym and some of the juniors on varsity were watching me and they said, 'You're going to be really good,' " Lalli said. "I liked the encouragement and I knew I would do the same thing one day.

"Last year, we had a lot of seniors so it was harder to be a leader, but this year I am encouraging the girls and trying to get the most out of them so we are ready for sectionals."

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