Springfield softball seeded fourth in NEWMAC tournament

Kevin Saxe
@ksaxe98

If your team goes 25-11 in the regular season, That is a success.

However, the Pride, despite an exceptional record this season, finished at 10-8 in the NEWMAC. The team’s record was good enough to earn a share of fourth place with Coast Guard. Owning a tiebreaker over the Bears, the Pride enter next week’s NEWMAC tournament as the fourth seed.

Despite getting the fourth seed in the tournament, this is a Pride team that lost numerous close games in-conference that they should’ve won. Taking a closer look of the eight games the Pride lost in conference, seven were decided by three runs or less; five were decided by two runs or less.

Despite numerous close games, Head Coach Kate Bowen is not worried.

“During conference play we had our high’s and low’s. We have made the corrections, grown from our mistakes and are going into playoffs strong.”

Not only has the team lost numerous close games, but they have lost some heartbreakers that they probably should’ve won.

These games include losing to Coast Guard 7-5, by giving up four runs in the top of the seventh, or losing to Wellesley at home 6-5 thanks in large part to five hours. These are just two examples of the Pride’s inability to pull out close games. However, senior Kirsten Drobiak isn’t worried as she feels the Pride are ready to go for the NEWMAC tournament.

“We have had our ups and downs throughout the season but I think we are definitely feeling strong going into NEWMAC play. We aren’t the happiest how we played in conference play, but I think we have a learned a lot from those losses which can help us in the tournament.”

On every team there is always the player or players that may not get the recognition that the “stars” receive. Springfield is no different, as there is a couple that come to mind.

One player who has a chance to make a sizable impact is Kayla Padroff.

Despite not getting much attention at third, Padroff’s attitude on the field and off the field is a key to the team.

At third, Padroff is as solid as they come providing stellar defense at the hot corner. Despite her average not being the best, often when not in the flex spot she offers solid at bats while providing speed at the bottom of the lineup. Padroff is also third on the team in sacrifice bunts so if runners reach in front of her, she can also drop down a bunt if need be. Fellow senior Kirsten Drobiak had high praise for Padroff.

“I think that Kayla sometimes does not get the recognition she deserves, because we can always count on her at third base to play solid every game and her positive attitude is one big reason why our team is so close and why we have been as successful as we have been.”

Another thing to watch isn’t a single player, but an aspect of the team that may not got talked about as much but deserves some attention. For all intents and purposes, the Pride defense may be the most underrated thing about the team. The Pride have only committed 37 errors in 36 games, a number inflated by a couple rough games in the field. Senior pitcher Talia Loda credits the defense for being as solid as they come.

“Our whole defense has been doing great. They never get any recognition for all the hard work they put in to make sure nothing gets through the infield and the outfield does a great job making sure any balls that go out there are thrown in quickly.”

Despite being the fourth seed , the mood around the team is not one of disappointment of what could’ve been had they won close games, the team is a determined and resilient group.

Bowen believes her players are just hitting their stride.

“I truly believe we just hit our stride and I am very excited to enter conference tournament play.

Players and coaches alike are optimistic as the Pride head to MIT next Wednesday to kick off the NEWMAC tournament against Coast Guard. Loda, who has been one of the best pitchers in New England, feels this Pride team can make some noise in the tournament.

“I think that we have a really good shot of making a good run in the NEWMAC tournament. Everyone on our team is hungry to get the wins and we’re working hard in practice to prepare for the games ahead.”

Having a solid senior class, is something the Pride know all about, as this year’s class has been one of the more successful in the team’s history. A class that consists of Padroff, Drobiak, Loda, as well as Rachel Ball and Carianna Gasdia, is one that won’t soon be forgotten as they may be one of the best all-around classes in some time. For Drobiak knowing her time is up is not something she wants to think about, but it is also a motivating factor not just for her but all the seniors.

“I definitely try not to think about the fact that I am at the end of my last year. As a team we are going game by game, but I know that all of us seniors definitely have a dream of making a run in the playoffs.”

This is a Pride team that is as good as they have been in years, including last year’s team that made the NCAA Tournament.

If the Pride continue to get dominant pitching from Loda and get exceptional pitching as they have at times from junior Shelby Allen, this is a team that can make some noise. When Loda and Allen are both on, they have an argument for being one of the best 1-2 pitching combos in the region. Also, the Pride have started to turn to sophomore Marisa Valenti, and should Loda or Allen get in trouble, Valenti is a viable weapon who can get outs both starting and out of the bullpen. Despite, pitching being the focus, some of the Prides early losses came simply because the Pride couldn’t string together hits. However, if the Pride offense finds the consistency it found at times late in the season, they are a dangerous lineup from top to bottom.

Not only do the Pride aspire to win the NEWMAC tournament, but they have their sights on going further than last year in the NCAA tournament. For the most part they have the same group of players who played most of the time on last year’s team. Drobiak believes the strong returning core is key for the Pride.

“I think that the core group that has experienced the tournament play benefits us because we are just trying to help the new players understand just how big this really is. We want them to understand that playing for Springfield is a privilege and not every team gets to feel the success that we do. That feeling of being one of the best is what is going to push us to believe that we can go far in this tournament.”

The Pride start the conference tournament on Wednesday May 2nd when they face Coast Guard at 2:30. This game will be played at MIT who is the top seed of the NEWMAC tournament. If they win they play MIT directly after in the winner’s bracket but a lose sends them to the loser’s bracket at MIT on Friday May 4th as it is a double elimination format. Championship weekend will be on Saturday May 5th and Sunday May 6th (if necessary).

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