By Tyler Browne
The key to any softball team’s success is a strong pitching staff, and the Springfield College softball team certainly has one.
Through their first six games, the Pride’s pitching staff has been superb, giving up just 26 runs and 12 walks while striking out 35 batters.
With the season looking a bit different due to the global pandemic, the pitchers are gaining more rest than they would typically get during the year. Rather than playing nearly 40 games, the Pride are scheduled to only play 12 this season, all of which are on Saturday afternoons.
The Pride’s pitching staff is highlighted by junior Gillian Kane. In Kane’s freshman season, she was 9-5 in 17 starts, logging 85.1 innings pitched with a 4.18 ERA.
In 2020, Kane started what ended up being the Pride’s only game. In a victory against Amherst, Kane gave up seven hits and two runs while striking out two.
When the onset of the pandemic forced all sports to shut down, Kane returned home to New Canaan, CT, where she spent much of the spring practicing her form.
“I did a lot of YouTube workouts, things that I could do at home. That was pretty much the only thing that I was doing over quarantine,” said Kane.
Along with working with a pitching coach over the summer, Kane also found a way to practice pitching at home.
“When the facility wasn’t open, I would throw to a net in my backyard. I just tried to stay active and get some sort of exercise,” said Kane.
Although this is Kane’s third year at Springfield, the cancellation of her sophomore season means that she has become a team leader after only one season. Going into 2021, Kane was chosen as a team captain, serving alongside Hannah Salvetti and Natalie Stoner.
“If you think about it, Gill only really had her freshman season. Now she’s an upperclassman and leader,” said head coach Kate Bowen.
In three starts so far, Kane is 2-1. She’s logged 10 strikeouts and has an ERA of 3.82
All of the extra time off between games has been beneficial to the pitchers, although their coaches have made sure that they are still active in between outings.
“We throw live to the team at least once a week, maybe twice, so we are getting those batters. We’re still throwing, we just aren’t seeing batters from other schools,” said Kane. “We definitely throw live and keep our skills sharp during the week,”
Kane is also thankful that the extra time allows her to focus on her overall health.
“I personally have had a history of injuries in my leg so for me it’s nice to get the long break in between games so I know I’m healthy before we start.”
As her role grows, her appreciation for the coaching staff and how they manage has also risen.
“One thing that I love about our coaching staff is that it’s not just one coach for one thing. It’s not like we have one outfield coach, one infield coach. All of our coaches are on the same page with every single position and every group of people that they have. I have all three coaches talking to me. They’re all super involved. They give great feedback, and then we also have great sports psychologists. I’ve been working with Coach (Adam) Feit to work on the mental side of the game.”
Another pitcher who has stood out so far this season is Emily Gell. A first-year student from Trumbull, CT, Gell’s first collegiate appearance came in the first half of the Pride’s season-opening doubleheader when she relieved Kane in the fourth inning.
After finishing the first game, Gell pitched the entirety of the second game, giving up just one run en route to a 4-1 victory over WPI.
“She was doing a great job and we just let her keep throwing. She was doing great. It was an exciting day for her,” said Bowen.
Gell has started three games so far, in addition to the one relief appearance, and she is 2-1 with a 3.05 ERA. In her second start, against Wheaton, she went five innings and struck out four batters, getting her second win. Her most recent start, against Babson, saw the Pride fall by a score of 2-0, but Gell was dominant throughout most of her appearance.
One of the biggest impacts of the shortened season is the small number of pitchers being used. In the 2019 season, the Pride used five pitchers, two of whom (Kane and then-senior Shelby Allen) were used as starters, while the other three appeared in relief.
In 2021, the Pride has used just three pitchers through twelve games. Kane has exclusively started, Gell has started thrice and come on in relief once, and first-year Ashley Pugliese has been used only in relief.
Last Saturday, Pugliese was brought into the game in a high-pressure situation and got out of it relatively unscathed. In the top of the fourth inning, Pugliese relieved Gell with runners on second and third and nobody out. While one of those runners scored on a sacrifice fly, Pugliese didn’t give up any hits in the inning and got three consecutive batters out.
“She did a great job coming on in relief. She did a great job moving the ball, and she got ahead of the batters,” said Bowen.
Pugliese credited the defense for helping her get out of the tough fourth inning, especially shortstop Dana Serricchio.
“I think that our shortstop, Dana, is very supportive of me and she knows me very well. If I get down on myself, she knows how to pick me up. And she’s a great player.”
The Pride’s pitching staff will aim to get wins four and five of the season on Saturday when they travel to New London to take on Coast Guard.
Photo: Jack Margaros