New coach smoothly guides Chieftains softball squad to strong start

By: Jon Malavolti | Shelby - Utica News | Published May 11, 2011

 Utica High’s Delaney Maki prepares to throw a pitch during a game earlier this season. The freshman pitcher and the team’s strong, young core have helped the Chieftains to a strong start in league play.

Utica High’s Delaney Maki prepares to throw a pitch during a game earlier this season. The freshman pitcher and the team’s strong, young core have helped the Chieftains to a strong start in league play.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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Deonna Giacona spent the last few years doing the best job possible to prepare for coaching the Utica High varsity softball team — coaching the JV team.

“Things have been going pretty smooth. Luckily for me, I knew about half the girls,” Giacona said. “So them knowing how I coach, and myself knowing their ability helped things out a lot.”

The smooth transition is certainly evident in the Chieftains’ results. At press time, Utica was in sole possession of first place of the Macomb Area Conference White Division with a 4-0 record.

“Thus far, things are going pretty well,” Giacona said. “The girls came out on fire.”

Giacona said the Chieftains’ hot start in league play had to a lot to do with the trial by fire they put themselves through in non-division action.

“We played games against tough opponents to set ourselves up for our league, so our girls would be prepared for that,” the coach said. “Now, it’s paying off.”

Utica (10-8 overall at press time) took on the likes of Brandon High, Warren Regina, Macomb Dakota, Marine City, Utica Stevenson and other solid squads, including playing in the Michigan Stars Tournament, to help it get a jumpstart on the league and achieve one of its goals — winning the MAC White.

Giacona also attributed the team’s strong start to the girls’ “camaraderie.”

“It’s our teamwork,” she said. “When we’re all together on the same page, we’re an unstoppable team. That’s a huge advantage for us. We have a common goal in hand and can all work together.”

But for as many strengths the Chieftains have, their coach said there’s plenty of room for improvement.

“We’re working on making sure all the girls are becoming fundamentally sound on offense and defense. That’s very important to this game,” Giacona said.

The coach especially highlighted the team’s streaky hitting, saying, “We need to get our bats more consistent.”

“When we’re on, we’re on. But when we’re off, were really off,” she said. “That’s a huge concern of ours. We have to make sure we’re staying consistent.”

Giacona said that consistency, or rather lack thereof, is a factor in holding the team back from “being that amazing team,” rather than just a “good team.”

“If that all starts clicking, no doubt well be able to go far,” the coach said.

And the Chieftains could go far for a few years, at least. The young squad has a freshman pitcher, and on some days will start as many sophomores as seniors —two.

Freshman Delaney Maki was moved up from the JV team after an injury sidelined the varsity’s regular pitcher. And Maki has been stating a solid case for staying up in the “big leagues.”

“To be on varsity as a freshman is a honor in itself,” Giacona said. “To make it to varsity as a freshman and throw the majority of our games … the more she pitches, the better she gets.”

Sophomore first baseman Brittany Misiak knows about having success on the varsity level at a young age. She was third on the team in hitting last year as a freshman. Giacona said she’s a player her younger classmates can look up to.

“She’s just a leader on the field, leads by example, very smart, knows the game very well,” Giacona said.

Misiak is following in the footsteps of another great leader on Utica’s roster, senior outfielder Mary Dzieszkowski.

“She portrays all the qualities we want from a senior leader,” the coach said about Dzieszkowski.

Catch the Chieftains in upcoming action at 4:30 p.m. May 11 at home against Utica Ford and at 4:30 p.m. May 16 at Utica Eisenhower.
 

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