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Trust. That is the most powerful word coach Kelly Ambrose used when talking about her Lancaster Legends softball team and the road ahead in 2017.

“I like their trust in each other,” Ambrose said. “That comes from playing with each other last year, but even with the rookies that we have on the team I see a lot of trust in each other and a lot of camaraderie. And I think that’s what really gets a team through all these games and this type of season. Especially if it’s going to be something where the snows knocks you back late. You’re gonna need to have great practices and you need to have a lot of team bonding. And really, the trust that I’ve seen that they’ve shown in one another. Their competitiveness as well. They want to make sure they win whatever competition we’re having in practice each day and those things will translate onto the field once we do get outside.”

As the Legends roll into this new season they do so as the defending ECIC I champions that went 11-3 in league, 15-6 overall. Losing two starters to graduation-catcher Chelsea Davis and second baseman Clare Donofrio-the Legends as a whole only lost four players.

So, in Ambrose’s eyes the expectations will once again be high.

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Leading the way for the Legends on the field, and in the batting order, will be shortstop Kara Paradowski, who will hit lead off, and center fielder Madisyn Pepke who hits in the two hole.

Both proficient slap-hitters, their speed and ability to get on base will be key parts of the offense.

Third baseman Tina Stasiuk will bat third. Joining Pepke in the outfield will be two more returning players from last season’s divisional championship team. Samantha Moll will be in left field while Francesca “Frankie” Walker will be in right field.

Kiley Martz returns to the pitching circle as the Legends No.1 arm.

“We’re definitely excited about the girls we have coming back,” Ambrose said. “Last year we had a real young team and I don’t think the expectations for us, last year, was to win the division. We just wanted to be able to compete and get better every day and every game. So to be able to go out and win it last year, we definitely think that we can be very competitive again, having the core that we have. That being said we know that ECIC I is so competitive. There will be a ton of teams that will be even. Every game will be a dogfight. Every game is a playoff game in our division. We certainly like our chances, but we know we’ve got our work cut out for us because there’s a lot of great competition.”

With competition like Williamsville North and Orchard Park, which made it to states for a second year after winning the NYSPHSAA Class AA title in 2015, the Legends know they will have their work cut out for them this season.

As Ambrose stated every game will be a battle. But should anyone on any team forget just how stiff the competition is in ECIC I they need only refer back to last seasons Class AA sectional playoffs when the top four seeds, including No.1 seed-Lancaster, were all eliminated in the quarterfinals.

Ambrose said the playoff results just speaks to not only the quality of talent but also the balance across the board. There really isn’t that one team that will just steam roll through everyone. Knowing how tight each game will be the value of so much experience coming back will certainly be a plus for the Legends.

“We return our entire outfield,” Ambrosia said. “So coming back with our outfield and our left side of the field and also our pitcher I think that’s really gonna help us in a lot of tight games. And certainly going into the playoffs as well. Now that we’ve had that experience I think we’re a little bit better able to deal with the pressure. It’ll help us going forward in any type of tight contest and definitely when the pressure is on late in the season.”

On April 1, the Legends will take part in a four-team scrimmage at Depew with the Wildcats, Olean and Williamsville South.