Darian Evans, seen here swinging for the Dazzlers, has helped her schoo and travel teams win playoff games and tournaments with her play at the plate. Photo by Dave DeLuca.
Lake Shore’s first postseason victory in five years was decorated by a three-run homer from junior Darian Evans. She sent the shot way beyond the fence at North Collins in the bottom of the sixth inning.
It is hard to imagine that someone with that much power in their swing is fairly new to hitting bombs. Her father, Bill, even remembers her sending Starpoint pitcher Allison Block’s toss about 240 feet.
“That was one proud moment as a father,” he said.
Evans spent the last four full seasons on varsity at Lake Shore. Satisfied with how she performed as an eighth-grader, she became inconsistent around her freshman year.
“I was in a little bit of a hitting slump in the beginning, but then I found my way through and everything was fine,” said Evans, who just finished her junior season. “I was hitting good for a while and then there was a year or two that I wasn’t hitting. It really brought me down.”
Spring season slumps became common for Evans, aside from her junior campaign, which she has continued over the summer with the Western New York Dazzlers.
“She’s always a good hitter for us,” said her father and travel coach Bill. “Usually it’s school ball where she starts off slow, this year being the exception. She started the year hitting good at school and really has never stopped since then.”
It was 2010 when a seventh-grade Evans was moved up to Lake Shore’s varsity softball team for a playoff game alongside classmate Jessica Ackley. She had no intentions on playing, but a few errors by Lake Shore’s shortstop caused the Eagles’ former coach to make a change.
“So she grabs me by the shirt, dragged me onto the field and says ‘Go play short,’” Evans said. “The first ball was hit right to me and it was so scary. I didn’t even know it was in my mitt and she was like, ‘Throw the ball.’”
Upon her seventh grade debut, it did not take long for Evans to become the face of Lake Shore softball.
“I took notice of her the very first practice back in 2012, my first season,” said Jeff Ziobro, the head varsity softball coach at Lake Shore from 2012-2014. “Not only did she stand out with her height, but her game as a freshman was above everyone else’s, seniors included.”
Evans was a right centerfield gap hitter at 14 years old before those hits began going over outfielder’s heads. Her progress at the plate earned her Lake Shore’s Most Valuable Player honors in 2013 and 2014.
She also was an ECIC II second team all-star as a sophomore before earning first team honors for her junior season as she moved back to shortstop after spending a season in centerfield.
With the Dazzlers, Evans continues to play with three of her teammates from school ball: Jessica Ackley, Emma Franco and Machala Andrews. Ackley and Franco have played with Evans since 12U. Andrews joined them the next year.
When Jamestown’s Hannah Polino joined the team last year, Evans gladly switched positions.
“She willingly made the transition to left field without any arguments for the better of the team. As a coach I think that’s fantastic,” Bill Evans noted. “One of her strong points is that she wants to be on a winning, competitive team and she’ll do whatever it takes to make us better.”
Evans has helped the Dazzlers qualify for and enter the finals of prestigious tournaments and showcases.
The Dazzlers head to Baltimore from July 11-13 for the Best of the Best College Showcase, where 40 college coaches will be in attendance. The 16U Dazzlers also qualified to play 18U teams in the NSA World Series July 14-19 in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Evans and the Dazzlers will then play in the Lady Rebels ASA Northeast Open 18U tournament in Horseheads, New York from July 25-27.
“The whole part of it; meeting new people, going on a parade, getting pins and getting to trade with people…just the whole experience is great,” Evans said about attending national tournaments. “You get to play with people from everywhere.”
At press time, the Dazzlers had to finish a 0-0 championship game of the Aunt Rosie’s 16U tournament on June 29 that a storm delayed.
And while Evans’ travel team continues its success, perhaps all of the losing seasons she has had at Lake Shore are coming to an end. The team won four games before falling to eventual Class A state champion Williamsville South in the second round of the playoffs this year.
“I’m just excited because we were a young team, and a lot of other teams have players graduating, so I feel like we’re going to have a good team and prove people wrong,” Evans said.
And as Ziobro retires from coaching Lake Shore softball, he wouldn’t be surprised with someone like Evans leading the way.
“Her commitment, desire, selflessness and her work ethic sets her apart from everyone else,” said Ziobro. “Add her glove, arm and bat into the equation and you have the complete softball player. She is, arguably, one of Lake Shore’s best softball players…ever.”