Esposito’s three-year plan to build program on course

J. Patrick Eaken

In his second year as softball coach at Cardinal Stritch, Tony Esposito is finding out his team has an interest in getting better, and not just on the field.
        “We are a young squad and novice squad with a desire to learn,” Esposito said. The notable accomplishment of coaching any sport is the satisfaction of making a difference in the player’s life. Make them achieve something they thought was not possible and believe in themselves. Once they believe in themselves success, as a team, happens. I truly believe this helps in adult life as well as school life.” 
        Last year’s team finished 5-17 overall and 3-18 in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference. Technically, Esposito has seven letter winners returning, “but with a limited number of players and our schedule, I was able to have many players receive playing time and experience.”
        As a result he has players who are young but says their strengths are “attitude, team play, and how they interact with each other.”
        Key players include senior first baseman/third baseman Cora Radtke, junior shortstop Amber Daly, and sophomore pitcher and catcher Allie St. Claire. Esposito believes all three are candidates to play collegiate softball someday.
        Daly, a shortstop who batted .479, and St. Claire, who hit .357, were All-TAAC last year. Radtke batted .302.
        “All have a natural athletic ability and are solid line drive hitters,” Esposito said. “Amber Daly, is a pure athlete and has taking on her role as co-captain (Radtke is the other) by being a leader in the infield.”
        In the circle, Esposito has two girls are seeing plenty of action and getting to another level.
        “Jocelyn Ahumada and Allie St. Claire are both young and learning the mental aspect of pitching,” Esposito said. “Last year we focused on strikes, this year we are developing location and changing speeds. They are progressing faster than I expected.”
        Esposito has others who are finding their roles on defense.
        “Lydia Rodriguez has taken on her new role from switching from second to third base with much success,” Esposito said. “Center fielder Ashley Dunnigan has developed into a steady outfielder who can cover a lot of ground.”
        As for the varsity newcomers to the squad, that’s what could make his team even better down the road. Even this year if the whole team puts its mind to it, Esposito said.
        “(Sophomore) Jocelyn Ahumada has improved her game to where I believe she can be All TAAC this season,” Esposito said. “(Junior) Hannah Crosley was injured most of last season, but has worked very hard on her batting in the off season to be a hitting threat. (Senior) Emily Naugle is continuing to improve her batting and make solid contact.
        “(Freshman) Kylie White is a multi-sport player who has good fundamentals and is always looking to become better. Her speed and eye/ hand coordination is exceptional. (Sophomore) Miranda Nino is a first-time softball player that has exceeded all my expectations. She always wants to learn and does everything with a smile and is always positive.”
        That said, Esposito says his girls are doing what it takes to get the program to where it needs to be.
        “When I was hired, I took an honest look at the program and assessed a three-year plan to become contenders and make a run in the state playoffs,” Esposito said.
        “Last year was expected, this year we are on pace for a .500 record, and to finish in the upper half of the TAAC. But, since we are progressing faster than anticipated, I hope our record can reflect that.
        “Last year there were a few contests that I thought we were slightly outmatched. But you need to build on those defeats and use them as a learning opportunity, which I believe we did. This year the schedule is reflective of our conference with more competitive competition. I do like our chances to improve our record.”
        This year, Esposito acknowledges that “allowing errors and mistakes to change their attitude” will have to happen, “but that is the youth that just needs experience, and we will get there.
        Esposito continues, “I am proud of our program and the way our young women are progressing and developing into strong players as well as young adults. They have grasped the idea of team play and never one individual player. The motto I express to all the teams I coach is ‘It’s not about you…its about the team.’”
        Esposito came to Stritch was a long history of coaching at the school. He was junior varsity softball coach for six years from 2010-15 and assistant JV baseball coach for two years in 2016-17 before being asked to coach softball.
        However, being just his second year at the helm, he’d like to see the program get back to where it once was.  Cardinal Stritch has had a long history of a successful softball program prior to 2014 with 11 TAAC championships.
        Helping him as an assistant is Stritch alumnus and his daughter Rachel Esposito, and Tony credits all of the players who have helped him coach for the past 15 years.
        At all grade levels K-12, Tony has been a coach for 26 years, although this is his first paid high school coaching position. He also football in grades 5-8 for 24 years, baseball in grades 5-12 for 14 years, softball in grades 3-12 for 13 years and basketball in grades 3-12 for eight years.


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