Coming off a season in which the team went 32-11 and hosted a regional, the softball program is back and ready to prove that last season was no fluke.
Returning nearly everyone from their starting lineup, there is reason for optimism for the Pride. Despite the success last season, the team still has some unfinished business. Second year head coach, Kate Bowen, has high expectations.
“Last year was very successful for our team, but with the talent we return we feel like we can definitely go further.” said Bowen. “One thing we didn’t do last year was win NEWMACs. As a team that’s a collective goal that we have.”
Despite this year’s returning players, the Pride lost a good deal of leadership from its senior class. One of those players is catcher Alicia Pavadore. Despite not being a great hitter, Pavadore’s leadership and ability to call games has left a huge void at the catching position. Despite the loss, the team is confident sophomore catcher Gabby Alfieri can take the reigns as the starting catcher.
“It’ll definitely be hard without [Alicia] Pavadore,” said Pride pitcher Talia Loda. “We had such good chemistry and she knew what I liked to throw. We just have to work with the other catchers including [Gabby] Alfieri who has a lot of talent and is someone I will be throwing to a lot.”
Players to Watch
With all of the returning talent there a plenty of players to watch on this team, but the two standouts that were recognized the most after last season were pitcher Talia Loda, and first basemen Kirsten Drobiak.
Last year, Loda had statistically one of the best seasons for a pitcher in Springfield College history. Overall she finished with a 19-5 record with a 1.41 ERA and 99 strikeouts in 163 1/3 innings. She also pitched 18 complete games. Loda also contributed with the bat hitting .361.
“When she [Loda] gets on the mound, nothing bothers her,” said Bowen. “She’s a competitor, and when she’s on the mound, she really sets the tone for the entire team.”
Despite her personal success, Loda has her goals set even higher for her and the team this year.
“We really want to win NEWMAC’s. That would be a huge accomplishment this year. I definitely have worked hard this year, and I think not just me but the whole senior class is trying to end the season on a high note.”
Drobiak is coming off a historic season in which she won multiple awards and was named a NFCA All American, the first for the Pride since 2010. She hit .441 with 8 home runs, and a school record 50 RBI’s. Drobiak also provided stellar defense only making two errors on the season, good for a .994 fielding percentage.
“She definitely leads by example all around,” said Bowen. “I think for her to be a graduate student in the PA program, when we talk about all in on our team academically and on the field, she’s definitely someone who people look to. The fact that she doesn’t complain says a lot about the way she is a person both on and off the field.”
Like Loda, Drobriak has high hopes for herself and the team.
“I want to do well myself, but I don’t think too much about just my numbers. We definitely want to win NEWMAC’s and obviously it would be great to host NCAAs again.”
There is no doubt that this is by far one of the most talented teams in school history, as one through nine the team has an extremely solid lineup. Including Drobiak and Loda, the team also returns senior Carianna Gasdia, who was First Team All-Region, sophomore Allie Wheeler, who starred as a freshman last year, Alexyss Conley, Kayla Padroff, and Rachel Ball. This is certainly a team that could actually improve on their .339 batting average last year.
When it comes to pitching, this is a deep staff with the addition of Wheeler who will not only play in the outfield but is also set to be used as a pitcher this year. Aside from Loda, the team also has junior Shelby Allen and sophomore Marissa Valenti back for another season. Allen, who pitched the second most innings on the team last year, could be set to be the game two starter while Valenti could be set for a bigger role this year. Combine that with solid freshmen and the team could have a very deep pitching staff.
There is no doubt this is a team with a combination of pitching depth and offensive firepower. If things come together correctly, they could be a team that makes noise all the way to Oklahoma for the Division III College World Series.
Taking a page out of the 2004 Boston Red Sox Playbook, Drobiak said, “We have this thing, ‘Why not us?’. After watching how far Babson went last year, we beat them in the regular season, so we’re using it as a motivating factor this year.”
Kevin Saxe can be reached at email@example.com