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Nov 17, 2009 8:57 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Trio of Westhampton Beach athletes sign letters of intent

Nov 17, 2009 8:57 AM

Lacrosse goalie Kelly Dean, left-handed hitting outfielder Mark Podlas and power-hitting first baseman Sophia Geraci gathered in the library at Westhampton Beach High School on Thursday, surrounded by their parents, coaches and athletic director Kathy Masterson, to sign their letters of intent to continue their outstanding athletic careers when they enter college next fall.

Dean will be attending Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, Podlas will be part of the baseball team at the University of Virginia and Geraci will take her bat and mitt to Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. All three programs compete in Division I, the most competitive level of collegiate athletics in the country.

Podlas has been a standout hitter and outfielder for the Hurricanes during his four years on the varsity. Last season, as a junior, he batted .484 with five home runs, 24 RBIs and 13 stolen bases. Standing a 6 feet 3 inches, he also has a physique that attracted big name Division I programs. He also bats and throws lefty, which is a valuable asset.

Podlas spent a lot of time traveling last year, participating in prestigious camps and showcases throughout the country where he attracted the attention of big-time programs. He said that committing to Virginia, however, was an easy choice.

“It’s just everything they do for you as a program; the facilities, the coaching staff,” he said when asked why he chose Virginia, also pointing out that associate head coach Kevin McMullan won National Assistant Coach of the Year honors last season. “They have a good coaching staff, great baseball and a good climate. Everything just felt comfortable there.”

The Cavaliers won the Atlantic Coast Conference title last season and advanced to the College World Series for the first time in the program’s history. The team finished with a 49-15-1 record, hit .327 as a team and had a .972 fielding percentage.

Thirteen of Virginia’s position players were selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, including Ryan Zimmerman (Washington Nationals), Mark Reynolds (Arizona Diamondbacks) and Joe Koshansky (Colorado Rockies). All of them have already made their MLB debuts.

The UVA coaching staff was interested in Podlas because the team will lose several of its talented outfielders.

“They were looking for a left-handed hitting outfielder and I fit those requirements,” Podlas said.

The 2009 recruiting class was ranked ninth in the country by Baseball America.

While Podlas was thinking Division I all the way while he was choosing schools, Dean said her path to a Division I program was much different. She said she was ecstatic to get interest from Sacred Heart, because she initially thought she’d be attending a Division II or III school. She said once Sacred Heart showed interest in her, however, it was a no-brainer.

“I went for a clinic and just played for them and in two weeks, I got a call,” she said. “I fell in love with [the school]. I never thought I’d be playing Division I.”

Sacred Heart won the Northeast Conference title for the second consecutive year last spring and ended the season with a 12-7 record after losing in the play-in game of the NCAA Tournament.

Dean had been looking at Division II colleges Lycoming and Susquehanna, but abandoned those schools once Sacred Heart showed interest. She admitted she had a change of heart after going on officials visits to those schools before seeing Sacred Heart.

“I realized how much I wanted a Division I program,” she said. “When I went to look at the Division II and III schools, it was too laid back.”

Dean said that at one Division III school she visited, she was told that the team had “themed Fridays” where the players dressed up for practice as super heroes.

“That’s when I knew it wasn’t for me,” she said.

Like Dean, Geraci said she feels like the school she’s chosen is a perfect fit.

“When the coach made the offer, I was basically in shock,” Geraci said. “I was so excited because it was my number one choice. I love the school. It’s an amazing place.”

Geraci helped lead the Lady Hurricanes to the Class A playoffs last season, where they lost to Hauppauge in the opening round. Geraci was a reliable first baseman, but her skills as a power hitter were what truly propelled the Lady Canes to the postseason. Teams often chose to pitch around Geraci, but she was still one of the top hitters on the team.

The Bucknell softball team finished with a 19-32 record last season, but according to Geraci, the program is on the rise.

“I think their coach is building it up,” she said, referring to head coach Heather Rakosik, who will enter her sixth season at the helm this spring. “It’s improving and they’re building a new stadium.”

Geraci also considered Sacred Heart and Georgetown, but said Bucknell was her top choice.

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Podlas is a stud...bottom line...college game is a heck of a lot different then High School. Every kid was their home town "stud" but if theres one dude with the talent, drive and focus to have success at the next level its Mark
By whbghosts (4), westhampton on Nov 19, 09 4:32 PM
Nice Job to all three. Your school and community should be very proud of you all. It's nice to see the Hurricanes taking it to the next level. Good luck with your college experience.
By heeeere's johnny (11), westhampton beach on Nov 20, 09 4:11 PM