Growing up, Paulina Gutkin idolized her older brother, Shaun. And watching the former Tappan Zee baseball player gave her the inspiration to play ball, and to pitch.
At 10 years old, she switched from shortstop to the circle.
“I feel like being a pitcher, I’m more accountable for what happens during the game for every single play,” Gutkin said. “I know my teammates are there, but I feel I can contribute most when I’m pitching and hitting. From a young age, I knew that. That’s why I became a pitcher.”
“It’s crazy how I’ve had a different catcher each year,” said Gutkin, this season’s Journal News Rockland Softball Player of the Year. “But it was tremendous for me how all three of them were so talented.”
She pitched to Colleen Pagnani her freshman year, Regina Argenzio last year and Kelly Connolly this year.
Having to work with a new batterymate each season could throw off some pitchers. Not Gutkin, who credits all three of them for her success.
“I’m so privileged to have had those catchers,” Gutkin said. “It’s really important to have a good catcher. You are only as good as your catcher. These catchers have made me look so good. I feel like they are the most underrated players on the field.”
When Connolly found out she would be catching Gutkin, she knew the dynamic needed to start early.
“I went with her to her pitching lessons over the winter, and as soon as the season started, we just read each other’s minds as far as what pitch to call,” Connolly said.
“As the season went on, we got stronger. I believe in her. I know that when I call a pitch, she’ll hit her spot. And she has confidence in me calling the pitches.”
That mutual trust helped Gutkin complete the season with a 21-5 record and 1.04 ERA. In 175 innings, she allowed only 92 hits, and struck out 239 while walking just 39.
The numbers are impressive for her three varsity seasons. Last year Gutkin had a 1.67 ERA with 151 strikeouts in 130 innings. In 2011, she had a 1.61 ERA and struck out 167 in 135 innings.
Gutkin is also a potent force at the plate. She batted .440 this season, with six home runs and 24 RBI, as the Dutchies won their first Section 1 title since 2006. They tacked on a regional championship before bowing 1-0 in eight innings to Hamburg in the state semifinals.
Gutkin garnered all-section honors for the second straight year, and was named first-team all-state.
“I think we went further than most people thought we would,” Gutkin said. “That was because it’s not one person who carries the team.
“One of the reasons for the success was our offense, and a lot of that came from the bottom of the lineup. And Kelly (Connolly) and I are in every play, but we don’t define the game. When I’m not getting the strikeouts, it’s my defense behind me who keeps us in the game.”
With most of the team returning, including Connolly, Gutkin is looking forward to next year.
“Kelly will be the first catcher that I will have for two consecutive years,” Gutkin said. “That’s like a recipe for disaster for the other teams.”
The rest of the Journal News all-county first team:
Mandy McCarthy (Pearl River): The junior posted a 1.82 ERA with 103 strikeouts (and just 33 walks) while leading the Pirates back to the Section 1 championship game. She also hit .529, breaking the school single-season batting-average record set by Sam Alicandri last year. Her 39 RBI tied Morgan Sheehan for third all-time in school history. McCarthy was named fourth-team all-state.
Kelly Connolly (Tappan Zee): The junior catcher was one of the big reasons the Dutchies reached the state semifinals. She had a .512 batting average, with six home runs. Her 40 RBI were the most in Rockland County. Connolly threw out 14 of 17 runners in her first season behind the plate.
Nicole Ritsick (Clarkstown South): The sophomore batted .329. Her solid defense helped the Vikings get back to the Section 1 Class AA semifinals before being eliminated by Ketcham.
Erin Woods (Pearl River): The junior committed only three errors. She also batted .312 with 18 RBI, and walked 11 times.
Dee Sinanaj (Tappan Zee): The senior shortstop had a .486 batting average with three home runs and 28 RBI. Sinanaj was named all-section for the third straight year, and was also selected third-team all-state.
Sam Iodice (Suffern): The junior batted .429 with seven home runs, eight doubles and 29 RBI. She was named all-section for the second straight year.
Amanda Carroll (Tappan Zee): The senior right fielder led the Dutchies’ outfielders in assists. She also batted .428 with 20 RBI, hitting in the No. 5 spot behind Connolly.
Laura Marinello (Nanuet): The junior center fielder had a .973 fielding percentage, committing only one error all season. She batted .435 and was 10 for 10 on stolen-base attempts.
Hayley Napier (Suffern): The senior left fielder batted .355 from the cleanup spot. She had 12 doubles and drove in 19 runs.
Danielle DiModugno (Nanuet): The junior batted .507 from the No. 3 spot in the order. She had three home runs and 35 RBI. As a strong-armed catcher, she threw out eight of 11 runners attempting to steal.
Sara Herskowitz (Clarkstown South): The freshman making her varsity debut had the highest batting average on the Vikings (.474). The first-time all-section and all-state selection led the team with 36 hits, 14 doubles, seven home runs and 35 RBI.
Coach of the Year
Gene Kousoulas (Tappan Zee): Kousoulas wanted the Dutchies to be ready for the postseason, and that they were. With a deep lineup, the Dutchies went on to win their first Section 1 championship since 2006. They won their first regional title since 2006 but lost in the state semifinals in extra innings. With all but two players returning, Tappan Zee will be a heavy favorite to win Class A next spring.
P — Lauren Capello (Albertus Magnus), Jr.
P — Briana Keaveney (Clarkstown South), So.
C — Megan Sneeden (Nyack), Fr.
1B — Caroline Kardashian (Pearl River), Jr.
2B — Meagan Trozzo (Tappan Zee), So.
SS — Sam Alicandri (Pearl River), Jr.
3B — Chinyere Oti (Clarkstown North), Sr.
OF — Megan Carbia (North Rockland), Sr.
OF — Casey Macchia (Suffern), Jr.
OF — Jules Madigan (Pearl River), So.
Util — Karly Fishkin (Clarkstown South), So.
Util —Maddie Knipl (North Rockland), Fr.
Megan Atzl (Clarkstown South), Sr.; Danielle Borelli (Clarkstown North), So.; Carly Feuer (Clarkstown South), Sr.; Katherine Gilbride (Pearl River), Jr.; Deangie Jimenez (East Ramapo), Fr.; Alana Kurtti (Clarkstown South), Sr.; Ashley Lew (Clarkstown North), Jr.; Taylor Mormile (Albertus Magnus), Jr.; Deirdre O’Malley (Pearl River), Jr.; Sidney Padilla (Suffern), So.; Kaitlin Quirk (Tappan Zee), Jr.; Kim Sano (Albertus Magnus), So.; Jackie Selvaggi (North Rockland), Jr.; Amanda Schweitzer (North Rockland), Fr.; Nicole Spiegelberg (Tappan Zee), Fr.; Kate Wood (Suffern), So.