Lawrence softball in transition phase


It’s always tough for a school sports team when there is either a huge roster turnover from the previous year, a conference change or a coaching carousel. But what if all three happen at the same time?

The Lawrence softball team suddenly finds itself at a crossroads after winning 14 games in 2023 with just a handful of girls returning to the team, a move from Conference 6 to a more challenging 5 and being led by a third coach in as many years. The Golden Tornadoes are still searching for their first victory entering this week’s action, but new manager Craig Mannhart remains positive as his team endures the transition.

“They’ve had seasons of quite good years in recent past,” he said. “When you move up a conference and lose the majority of your team, it’s kind of hard to keep up with. And it’s frustrating with a new coach all the time. Everybody’s expecting something different.

“I’ll always find the good inside the bad and [use things as] a teaching moment. You make your mistake, we’re going to understand why and we’re going to work our best to correct it.”

Lawrence’s offense is led by senior power-hitting catcher Jayleen Aquino, who belted a grand slam among her six home runs last spring. She already has a triple this year and has also seen time at designated hitter to heal a recent knee injury.

“She's a great kid, a solid hitter and quite a good catcher as well,” Mannhart said.

Senior shortstop Ariana Watson has been one of the team’s more consistent hitters, according to Mannhart, and is another dependable fielder. Utility infielder Kristelene Cribbs is the Golden Tornadoes’ leadoff hitter and has impressed with her hustle and ability make contact at the plate and fellow junior Gina Pasquariello and senior right fielder Luzynette Torres-Lugo can both bat in the two-hole to help set up RBI opportunities.

Senior Mariah Ramos has a “cannon” of an arm in left field who also makes strong contact at the plate and junior sister Madelyn is a speedy center fielder who can also make opposing baserunners hesitant with her good arm. Marcianette Torres-Lugo will also appear in right for her twin sister.

Junior Heather McHale has filled in admirably at catcher and can hit in the middle part of the lineup and senior Andrea Monroy and sophomore Haily Brancaccio share first base duties.

Hard-throwing Franki Cancelliere and fellow freshman Giana Torres are Lawrence's main starting pitchers.

For now, Mannhart is employing a back to basics approach with his mostly green team and hopes that experience and learning the nuances of softball will lead to more positive results.

“I just want to see what I have and make ourselves better as a team and progressively get better as the season goes along,” he said. “My biggest philosophy is just understanding the little things, no matter what game or sport you're playing. If you know the little things, you're already becoming a better player.”