Rogillio turns St. Al into contender

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 29, 2001

[05/29/01] After a dismal first season of fast-pitch softball in 2000, the St. Aloysius Lady Flashes entered the 2001 season looking to improve with a young team and perhaps set themselves up to compete for a playoff spot in 2002.

They got there a year ahead of schedule.

After posting a 3-12 mark in 2000, St. Al finished this season 10-7 including an 8-4 record in a division that included only one other Class 1A team and despite having six starters who were sophomores or younger and its top pitcher, Allison Hearn, sidelined.

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The Lady Flashes fell in the first round of the playoffs to defending state champion Newton, but St. Al’s coach, Gene Rogillio, has earned the 2001 Vicksburg Post Coach of the Year award.

“I think we coaches get a lot more credit than we deserve, because if you want success you’ve got to find yourself a good assistant coach, which I’ve got, and a good bunch of kids who want to play softball, and hope your coaches don’t screw it up,” said Rogillio, whose assistant coach is Howard Park.

Junior center fielder Danielle Klaus led Warren County with a .512 average, and freshman Laura Beth Lyons was one of the season’s biggest surprises. Before the season, the Lady Flashes were looking for pitching because of a shoulder injury to Hearn. Lyons came in on the first day of practice and quickly settled the issue.

“When I saw how much she had improved, I knew that we were OK,” Rogillio said.

Lyons went on to finish with a 9-4 record and 102 strikeouts in 70 innings. She hit .311 and led the county with 14 stolen bases.

Her effort, along with that of the other Lady Flashes, quickly turned St. Al’s program-building effort into a playoff chase. St. Al started 8-1 in division play before running into a couple of tough teams at the end. Still, the Lady Flashes finished second in the division, good enough to qualify for their first fast-pitch playoff appearance.

Rogillio said St. Al’s run wasn’t a big shock to him.

“We started horrible (in 2000) because the confidence wasn’t there … I think the confidence began to build, and you could see it,” he said.

Next year may be even better. Instead of having to play with Class 1A, 2A and 3A teams, St. Al will be grouped with only 1A and 2A schools. The bulk of the team is also returning. Only shortstop Keiko Booth is graduating. Hearn’s return would give St. Al two solid pitchers.

“It’s hard to say you’re going to be a better ball team, but we’ve got everybody coming back except Keiko. You don’t replace a Keiko, you just learn to play without her,” Rogillio said. “And if Allison’s arm gets back, she’ll come back … and this is a pitcher-catcher game.”

Rogillio added that as Warren County’s summer fast-pitch programs continue to develop, St. Al won’t be the only team to show improvement. Park coaches one summer league team made up of county players, and several other players are on teams based in Clinton and Jackson.

“We’ve got the jump on a lot of towns,” Rogillio said. “I think we do have an advantage over a lot of towns, especially the smaller towns.”