By Wayne Witkowski
Dana Sensi of Allentown continues to show the form that has earned her all-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) first team honors early for this season’s Rider University softball team.
“I’ve definitely been getting a lot better,” she said.
Sensi is a senior first baseman who came in well prepared for the spring off a solid fall season of workouts for Rider and playing last summer for the N.J. Cheetahs U23 team, a program based in Allentown that has reached national stature in recent years under Allentown resident Dave Dominici.
“I’ve worked on some of my weaknesses,” said Sensi.
She just returned with Rider from a weeklong series of games in Kissimmee, Florida, including a split of 1-0 games and an 8-1 loss against Bucknell University.
“I have worked a lot on hitting with Dave Dominici, who really helped me, and playing under Gerry Mauro coaching the Cheetahs U23 team; he knows a lot of stuff,” Sensi said. “I’ve picked up a lot of new drills. I’m approaching this season one pitch at a time.”
“She arguably is the hardest worker I’ve ever seen,” Dominici said.
He ironically had just brought on board former Rider softball coach Trish Carroll to head the Cheetahs 18U Gold team.
“Dana is the kind of kid that if she could, she would hit every day,” Dominic said. “She’s made herself arguably one of the best players to wear a Rider uniform just because she works really hard and wants it more than most. I wish all of my players had her work ethic. And she’s so unassuming, such a nice kid.”
Although Rider has struggled handily under a new coach Jaclyn Timko, it has been playing some tough nonconference opponents, including Florida A&M University, North Carolina A&T State University, Indiana State University, Brown University, Towson University and Drexel University. The team also had a season-opening weeklong trip to Rock Hill, North Carolina, as well as the one to Florida. It dropped a doubleheader to the United States Military Academy at West Point March 19.
Despite the team’s struggles, Sensi hopes the Broncs can contend for a MAAC tournament berth. She has batted .417 with a .646 slugging percentage, two home runs, five doubles and seven RBIs, despite the team scoring just eight runs in the nine-game stretch capped by the Army doubleheader. Sensi has committed only one error at first base, with 111 putouts and 14 assists.
“I’m starting off pretty well,” Sensi said. “It’s a fresh start, different in some aspects under the new coach [with] different mindsets.”
The team prepares for its April 2 doubleheader at MAAC opponent Monmouth University. It played at Fairleigh Dickinson University in a doubleheader March 23 and has a doubleheader against the University of Pennsylvania March 26 and a game at Princeton University before that.
Sensi is playing first base at Rider all four years and has played that position and shortstop for the Cheetahs after excelling at shortstop previously at Allentown High School and for Mercer County’s Carpenter Cup championship team while she was in high school.
“I like it. [It’s] definitely different than [playing] shortstop,” Sensi said of playing first base. “At shortstop, you’re getting to a lot of balls, and the footwork has helped me out for playing first base now.”
Sensi had impressive numbers last season, although she often had pitchers throw around her in certain situations when the Broncs were threatening.
“Last year, we had a lot of big bats. [Other pitchers] had to pitch to everyone,” Sensi said.
After a second team All-MAAC selection in her sophomore year, Sensi came on strong, leading the team in many categories as she has done in the early part of this season.
Starting all 47 of the Broncs’ games last season, Sensi batted .380 with 12 doubles, which led the MAAC, and was second in home runs with 13 to go with 38 RBIs, which was third best in the conference. She had a team-high 17 multiple hit games. In the field, Sensi was charged with three errors, making 312 putouts with 10 assists at first base.
“Last year was a huge year for me and definitely has helped my confidence [for this season],” Sensi said.
As a sophomore, Sensi led Rider with a .302 batting average and 21 RBIs and was second on the team in doubles with eight. She was a second team All-MAAC pick as a freshman, batting .320.
A finance major, Sensi also is a two-time MAAC All-Academic selection. Her dad, Joe, is a 1984 Rider graduate with a degree in accounting.