Softball signs seven student-athletes for incoming class

Softball's incoming class includes (l to r) Lizul Portugal, Mary Tom, Kierstin Bloom and Kylie Lacerte.
Softball's incoming class includes (l to r) Lizul Portugal, Mary Tom, Kierstin Bloom and Kylie Lacerte.

OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. — Coming off its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2008, NYIT softball will welcome seven student-athletes as part of coach Steve Christianson's newest recruiting class: Kierstin Bloom, Tori Fox, Kylie Lacerte, Leandra Lopez, Stephanie Neglia, Lizul Portugal and Mary Tom.

The incoming group includes five prep players and two junior-college products.

"We tried to bring in a lot of athletic kids who each bring something different to the game," Christianson said. "This recruiting class brings speed and strength, and is able to play multiple positions."

Portugal, a shortstop, emerged as one of the top hitters in Queens during her junior and senior seasons. She hit .814 during the 2017 regular season while producing 41 runs scored, 55 RBIs, 21 extra-base hits and nine walks. In 2016, she hit .646 and drove in 43 RBIs. She led the league with seven homers and finished second with 31 hits. Portugal played on three PSAL Class A runner-ups in the last four years. She was named to the 2017 All-State sixth team and 2016 seventh team.

With first-team All-East Coast Conference shortstop Tiffany McCracken having graduated in May, Portugal may have the chance to win a starting spot as a freshman.

"Lizul has that 'it' factor. The kid has a motor that just keeps going," Christianson said. "She's got great hands."

Fox caught for Deer Park High School and produced a .396 average, .438 on-base percentage, four home runs and 18 RBIs during her junior year. She was named to the 2017 All-State sixth team alongside Portugal. Fox also was named to Newsday's All-Long Island second team while leading the Falcons to a 20-3 record her senior season. In 2016, she was named as one of the Top 100 Softball Players to Watch by Newsday.

Lacerte, also a catcher, was a four-year starter for Gloucester County Tech High School in Sewell, N.J. She produced a career .362 average in 344 plate appearances. Lacerte was named second-team All-South Jersey by the Courier-Post. She also played travel ball for the SJ Mystics 18U team.

"Lacerte has a great arm and has a lot of pop in her bat," Christianson said.

Neglia hails from West Islip, where she was the team's starting shortstop. She played travel ball for the Long Island Bandits 18U Gold team.

Bloom, a strong-armed outfielder, played for Bethpage High School. She was named All-Conference as a sophomore, All-County honorable mention as a junior and All-County as a senior. She played travel ball for the Long Island Pride.

"Kierstin's got great speed and has a phenomenal arm in the outfield," Christianson said. "She can probably throw it from one end of the field to the other with no problem."

The Bears will also add two players with previous collegiate experience.

Tom previously played for Pima Community College in Tucson, Ariz. An outfielder, she hit .289 with 25 runs scored, 11 RBIs, nine walks and seven steals. In the field, she had 22 putouts and didn't commit an error. With the Bears, Tom will play alongside former Pima teammate Christine Olivas.

Lopez attended Garden City Community College in Garden City, Kansas. She hit .233 with 12 runs scored and six stolen bases while appearing in 24 games. Before attending Garden City, Lopez played for Kilgore College in Midland, Texas. She previously was a two-time District 2-5A All-District selection.

"They're going to help bring depth to our roster," Christianson said. "They are going to be bringing in experience to a young core we have already."