By: Greg Allen, Athletic Communications Assistant
The State University of New York at New Paltz softball team was primed to fight for the program’s first conference championship in 2020. Bringing back the bulk of its roster after a historic 2019 season, expectations were set high for the Hawks.
Led by a strong senior class of Caroline Alicandri, Taylor LaFrance, Michaela Damore, Julia DiSpigna and Madison Rappold, all six were crucial in the team’s success this season, which had a solid start in its opening four games. Getting a tie over a perennial program in Rowan University in its season opener, the Hawks split their series the next day against Rutgers-Camden after bouncing back with a 6-1 victory in game two of the double header.
However, those were the last games played in 2020 and all the high aspirations were pushed to 2021. The role the six seniors played were felt however, as they set a high standard for a program on the rise. They played a big part in a 2019 season that saw the most wins in program history, earning a No. 3 seed in the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) Tournament — the highest in program history — and aided in a first round win in said tournament to set the stage for another historic campaign.
“This senior class was nothing short of amazing,” said Hawks second-year coach Krysti Maronski. “They have represented our program with the utmost pride, respect, and integrity. Each of these six individuals were dynamic leaders who were committed to the betterment of our program and culture every day. They all brought something different to the table and our coaching staff is so grateful for their openness to buy into what we are trying to build with this program. Each of them are very talented and hardworking softball players, but more importantly they are great people. I will always cherish this group and everything they have done for myself and for the program. I will miss all of them very much.”
Take a look at all six members of the 2020 SUNY New Paltz softball senior class below:
#2 Caroline Alicandri
Alicandri made an impact for the SUNY New Paltz softball team from the time she stepped on campus in 2017. Starting in 22 games as a freshman, Alicandri recorded six hits while drawing the team’s second most walks on the season with 12. She also was a perfect 4-for-4 on stolen base attempts. The communication disorders major had her best game as a freshman on April 9 when she went 2-for-3 with a run scored against Buffalo State.
As a sophomore Alicandri started in 11 of the 13 games she played in, recording the team’s fifth best batting average with a .306 clip. She drove in five runs and scored five more of her own. She was also extremely consistent on the defensive side. Making just one error all year, Alicandri posted a .985 fielding percentage and helped turn four double plays.
In her junior year, the Pearl River, N.Y. native tallied five hits and scored eight runs on a Hawks team that went 26-12 and defeated SUNY Oneonta in the first round of the SUNYAC playoffs. The journey to the successful season started early in the year when the Hawks traveled to Florida for spring break and won seven out of nine games including a thrilling 8-7, extra-inning victory over Stevenson.
“Aside from winning games, our team made a lot of memories on that trip and bonded a lot,” Alicandri said.
Those memories and bonds are what she will remember and miss most about being a Hawk.
“From my four years as a Hawk, my biggest takeaway is definitely the friendships,” she added. “Having the privilege to experience playing this game — and doing everything in between — with the people I’ve met here is something I’ll keep with me forever.”
Maronski will remember Alicandri for being an awesome teammate and person.
“She always showed up with a hardworking and positive attitude day in and day out,” Maronski said. “I will miss Carol always finding random things and bringing them to practice, and when she decided to dive headfirst in a puddle of mud for a GIF. She is the type of person to always put the team first and do what is needed to not only become a better player herself, but also help her teammates become better as well.”
#3 Taylor LaFrance
Not many players of any sport at the Division III level can say they started in every single collegiate game they’ve ever played, but as a walk on for the Hawks back in 2016 LaFrance has been a staple in the lineup. The Newburgh, NY native appeared in 123 games throughout her career and started all of them at shortstop. It is a testament to how she is viewed by her coaches.
“Taylor is a fierce competitor,” Maronski said. “She was an outstanding leader for this program throughout her whole time here, and there is definitely going to be a void without her on the field. She is one of the most hardworking people I have ever met, and I know she carries herself that way in life as well.”
LaFrance stuffed the stat sheet in her debut season. As a freshman in 2016 she finished third on the team in at-bats with 107, third in runs scored with 18, first in triples with three, fourth in RBI with 13, second in walks with 11, third in stolen bases with 11, and she was never afraid to take one for the team, as she led the team in being hit by pitches with five.
As a sophomore, LaFrance remained consistent, especially defensively. She led the team in double plays with four and assists with 99. At the plate, LaFrance fashioned a .234 batting average with 26 hits. She scored the second most runs for her team with 17 and drew the second most walks with 12.
LaFrance had her junior season cut short after a season-ending shoulder injury just six games in. In those six games, she was dominant. Driving in seven runs on eight hits in 17 at bats, the junior was poised for a massive year.
However, LaFrance bounced back as a senior in 2019. In 111 at bats, she tallied 32 hits and scored 28 runs. She hit six doubles and drove in 13 runs. The 2019 season will be remembered as one of LaFrance’s favorite years as a Hawk.
“Being able to be apart of the best start in program history during the 2019 season was a great feeling and something I will cherish forever,” she said.
Because of her junior-year injury, LaFrance was granted an extra year of eligibility. With plans to attend graduate school at SUNY New Paltz to pursue her Accounting MBA, she planned to take full advantage of that extra year. Through four games as a graduate student in 2020, LaFrance recorded three hits and scored two runs.
“I am going to miss the bus rides, team dinners, and overnight hotel stays which involved some of the most enjoyable times of my career,” she said. “I will also miss practicing and team lifts because I always had my closest friends surrounding me, pushing me to be the best version of myself. This program has taught me so much and given me some of my best friends that I know are friends for life. I am thankful for my coaches and the department for having set the right examples for me to follow, believing in me, and making me a better person and leader. I will forever be in debt to this program, and I am so proud to have been a Hawk.”
#8 Michaela Damore
In a sense, Damore had two freshman years. After not feeling at home at the college she attended out of high school, Damore transferred to SUNY New Paltz and suited up for the Hawks for the first time in 2018. Because of her first college experience, Damore was apprehensive to be starting all over again. However, SUNY New Paltz was different.
“I met so many great people,” she said. “I enjoyed representing this school, and I got to step on the field with some of the greatest women ever. I am unbelievably thankful that I took a leap of faith my sophomore year and decided to come to New Paltz because of the people I’ve met. The friends I gained and the coaches I’ve played for have made this experience beyond worth it, and I genuinely couldn’t imagine playing with another team. So all in all my favorite part is the people. They’re kind, amazing, welcoming and more. It’s going to be tough leaving it all behind, but I’m thankful for the time I’ve had here. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
In her first year as a Hawk, Damore started in three games and appeared in four others. In those games, she recorded six putouts with a flawless fielding percentage.
As a junior, she appeared in 15 games and started 12 of them. She finished the year with a .375 batting average and scored seven runs. She also led the team in homeruns with two.
This past season, Damore played in three of the Hawks’ four games. She reached base once on a walk and scored a run.
“Michaela is one of the most selfless players I have coached,” Maaronski said. “She always wanted what was best for the team no matter what, and she was the person to help push and cheer her teammates on in every practice, game, and in life. Michaela had a powerful bat and did a great job of working with our pitching staff. She is one of the most caring people, and she will be greatly missed.”
#12 Julia DiSpigna
Not many things are certain in life. However, if a fly ball is hit towards Julia DiSpigna, it is almost always caught — and the stats back that up. DiSpigna averaged a fielding percentage of .969 over her four seasons as a Hawk.
“Julia is one of the best outfielders I have ever come across both in my time as a player and as a coach,” Maronski said. “I know that as soon as a ball is up in the air in the outfield — even if it is a shot — Julia is going to give all her effort to catch that ball.”
Along with being one of the best defensive outfielders arguably in the entire State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC), DiSpigna also had an effective career at the plate for SUNY New Paltz. In her freshman year, DiSpigna tallied 14 hits in 51 at bats en route to a .275 batting average — good for first among Hawks freshmen. She also hit the third most doubles on the team, finding gaps and reaching second base five times in 2017.
As a sophomore, DiSpigna continued to improve at the plate. She recorded 26 hits in 90 at bats for a batting average of .289 — third best on the team. She scored the second most runs on the team, reaching home plate safely 17 times. DiSpigna also led the Hawks in RBI with 15 in 2018.
In 2019 the positive correlation of years played and batting average continued. As a junior, DiSpigna earned 32 hits in 102 at bats for a batting average of .314 — second best on the team. She finished second on the team in both runs scored (25) and RBI (20) in a historic season for SUNY New Paltz.
Reaching the SUNYAC playoffs, DiSpigna was poised for the moment. In the Hawks’ opening round victory over SUNY Oneonta, DiSpigna went 2-for-2 with two walks and two runs scored. In a loss to Geneseo the following day, DiSpigna tallied two more hits and later that day against Oswego, she picked up two more hits on her way to being named to the SUNYAC All-Tournament Team. That weekend was one of the most memorable for the New Windsor, NY native.
“The bus ride to our first playoff game against Oneonta and then beating them was one of the best feelings,” DiSpigna said. “I played exceptionally well that entire weekend because I made sure to leave everything on the field, and I can truly say my teammates did the same. Even though we did not win SUNYAC’s, I had more fun that entire weekend than I ever had knowing my entire team played their hearts out and never gave up.”
Through four games of her senior season, DiSpigna had a perfect fielding percentage, further proving that some things in this life are, indeed, nearly certain.
#15 Kelsey Trudden
Trudden did not come to SUNY New Paltz as a first baseman, but being a team-first player, she was willing to work hard to learn the position. With time, she became very efficient in her new role.
“Kelsey was an excellent first baseman for us,” Maronski said. “Coming in and having to learn the position, I think she grew every day in practice. I’ve always had faith in her ability to help our infielders and be able to pick the ball or come off the bag for a tag. We’re going to miss her presence for sure.”
As a freshman, Trudden started in 24 games for the Hawks. She finished with seven hits, and drove in four RBI. Her best game in her first season came against SUNY Potsdam when she helped her team to a win by going 3-for-3 with two RBI and one run scored.
In her sophomore year, Trudden saw her batting average skyrocket, as she tallied 17 hits on her way to a .321 average. She also drove in seven RBI and drew three walks. Getting things done in the classroom as well, Trudden was named to the SUNYAC Commissioner’s Honor Roll.
In 2019, the communication disorders major nearly doubled her hit total from the previous year. Recording 30 hits in 112 at bats, Trudden was starting to become a centerpiece for the Hawks.
Defensively, she led the team in catches (290) and putouts (276) while contributing 11 assists. She fashioned a career-high 16 catches against SUNY Cortland on April 7, 2019.
Through four games in 2020, Trudden started all four at first base, recording 25 catches and 24 putouts en route to a perfect fielding percentage.
“My favorite part about being a Hawk was not only gaining a second family, but being involved in a community as tight knit as the New Paltz athletic department,” Trudden said. “I got to play the sport I love with my best friends, and I am grateful for SUNY New Paltz for giving me that opportunity.”
#20 Madison Rappold
In the epic and historic 2019 SUNYAC playoff victory over Oneonta, Rappold was the last player to touch the ball. After catching strike three from pitcher Emily Fox, the ballgame was over, and the Hawks were moving on in the playoffs.
“My favorite memory at New Paltz is winning our first round of SUNYACS in 2019 against Oneonta,” Rappold said. “Emily struck out the last batter, and I just remember being so hype and proud of her and giving her the biggest hug.”
Rappold did not come to SUNY New Paltz and play a lot right away. She had to work to earn time behind the dish. As a freshman, she appeared in just five games, but after an offseason of hard work and improvement, the early childhood education major was first on the depth chart as a sophomore. Starting in 34 games, Rappold hit .243 in 74 at bats and drove in seven runs. Behind the dish she tallied 104 putouts and 16 assists in 122 chances, making just two errors for a fielding percentage of .984. She also threw out six attempting base stealers.
In her junior season, Rappold picked up six hits en route to a .240 batting average in 33 games played. She recorded 126 putouts and caught six runners stealing.
Through four games in 2020, Rappold had a perfect fielding percentage and fashioned five catches, four putouts, and one assist.
“Maddie was an outstanding catcher for us,” Maronski said. “She was a fiery competitor every day no matter if it was in games or at practice. She always gave her all and pushed herself to be the best she could be. Behind the plate she did a great job with the pitchers and was always very vocal in her communication. She also had a great arm and was able to throw many runners out. We are definitely going to miss Maddie next year.”
To read the original article, use the link! https://nphawks.com/news/2020/4/7/suny-new-paltz-softball-2020-senior-class.aspx
Photographs: Monica D’Ippolito
Graphic Design: Luke Barnell