Lauren Mahar has set some lofty goals for herself and her Schalmont softball teammates.
Thanks to her talented right arm, the Lady Sabres are quickly running down that checklist.
Starting with an early-season win over Mechanicville, Schalmont (7-1, 10-2) has had few tough games as the season heads into its final two weeks.
And Mahar had steadily moved up on the leaders in the program’s career records.
“She’s having a tremendous year,” said Eric Lybrand, who has been Mahar’s coach for the final four of her five years on varsity. “And we really needed her this year, because we have a young team.”
Any doubts Lybrand had disappeared when the senior opened the season by slaying a personal dragon, shutting out perennial Colonial Council and sectional power Mechanicville on two hits to open the season.
“The past three years, I’ve kind of held them off, but we’d never win. Then, my senior year, we finally beat them,” Mahar said. “It was a really good feeling.”
Mahar lost her catcher and friend Angela Yodis to graduation last June, and Schalmont graduated a handful of key players.
“Our team is young, and I was nervous about putting the ball in play at first,” siad Mahar, who moved over the 400 career strikeout mark this season. “After our first game, I realized I could put the ball in play and trust them. We’ve got a young infield, but they’ve handled it very well.”
Lybrand credits the comfort level of his team to Mahar’s approach.
“She doesn’t give herself enough credit. I don’t think she realizes that from her mannerisms, and how she composes herself on the mound, how much of an effect she has on the team,” Lybrand said. “If there’s a mistake, if somebody does something wrong, she’s the first person to pick them up.
“I don’t think she realizes how much the kids are drawn to that. They see that she’s relaxed, so they relax.”
While playing the role of team leader, Mahar has also stayed focus on her job in the pitching circle.
She had a 10-1 record after an outstanding day last Saturday at the Richard Pepe tourney, striking out 25, and giving up just two runs — one earned — in beating Schenectady and Mohonasen.
Mahar uses a variety of pitches to keep opponents guessing, including a knee-buckling changeup.
“Her changeup is unbelieveable. You don’t even see it coming,” said Lybrand. “The funny thing is, she’s been doing this for four years, and everybody knows its coming, and they still can’t hit it.”
As Mahar accumulates strikeouts and wins, she keeps mSoving up the Schalmont career lists.
“I finally beat the shutout record. I’m hoping to break the strikeout record, but that’s going to be tough,” Mahar said.
She started the season with four consecutive shutouts, and has seven through Saturday. Her career total of 11 is best in school history.
She’s currently third on the strikeout list, with a second-place finish all but inevitable.
“At our Hall of Fame dinner before the tournament, Kelly Paolino made a comment how when she came in, she wanted to beat Valerie’s [Higggins] records,” Lybrand said. “For these kids, its a sense of accomplishment that they’re able to move up the ladder. It’s nice for Lauren to come in and see where she ranks among the best ever in the program.”
Mahar is planning to study biology at RIT after she graduates in June.
“I’ve always said that the softball field is her playground, but the classroom is where the magic happens. She is brilliant,” Lybrand said.