Assistant Sports Editor
On Tuesday, the Springfield College softball team hosted the first day of the NEWMAC tournament. The Pride finished first in the conference, and they were waiting to see who would prevail in the first game to see who their opponent would be. It must have been a relaxing feeling for coach Julie Perrelli, because even though they were about to open their playoff schedule, she had arguably the two best pitchers in the tournament waiting with her.
Sophomores Ashley Marino and Jennifer Joseph have both had amazing seasons so far on the mound for Perrelli’s Pride. Marino, in particular, has had a season that will be remembered forever. She is currently 13-6, with a 1.12 ERA (earned run average) and 98 strikeouts in 106 innings. Those statistics alone are enough to show the profound impact that Marino’s right arm has had this year on the entire NEWMAC conference, but Marino was able to add two no-hitters to her season as well.
Wednesday, Marino was dominant in Springfield’s 12-0 victory over Wheaton in the Pride’s first game of the double-elimination NEWMAC tournament. Marino struck out nine and walked none in a two-hit, five-inning shutout. The Pride will host No. 2 Babson Saturday at 10 a.m. at Potter Field.
The first no-hitter took place on March 24 against Clark, when Marino took the mound and retired the first 16 batters she faced in order. She walked the next batter, a pinch-hitter, but went on to strike out the side. Besides a few Pride errors, that walk was the only runner that reached base all day. Marino was quick to deflect the attention to her teammates.
“My first no-hitter, I gave a lot of the credit to my teammates because it was an all-around effort with a mix of pitching, catching, offense and defense,” said a humble Marino. “All that came together to help me receive that title. They helped me out big time.”
Marino did not draw the line at one no-hitter for herself, though, as on April 10, she shut down MCLA 7-0 while striking out 11 and walking none. The only thing holding her back from a perfect game was an error by a Pride fielder. Normally, an error during a perfect game could mess with the psyche of a pitcher and rattle them to the point of no return. Marino, however, prides herself on her composure, especially when she is in a groove like she has been lately.
“Being in the zone on the mound is something that comes along with focus for me as a pitcher,” said Marino. “Each pitcher is different and handles situations differently. I am known for my composure on the mound, and no matter what the situation is, I have the same facial expression. Being in the zone and composed goes along with my determination to win. Every athlete likes to win and will do whatever they can to win, and when I’m focused on what matters at that given time, success is always reachable.”
Success has been abundant for Marino, Joseph and the first-place Pride all year long. In this day and age of softball, it is not uncommon for one pitcher to work almost every single game of the entire season. That is not the case for Marino, as fellow sophomore Joseph works the second games of doubleheaders and most every other game.
Two very talented pitchers sharing the mound would usually breed animosity or rivalry, but that is not the case with these two.
“They are best friends, so they are really happy for each other’s success,” said Perrelli. “They just make each other so much better because of their friendship, positive attitudes and work ethics. I hope Jen and Ashley continue to see their hard work and dedication pay off. They are both such strong, positive, hard-working athletes and to see them do so well is incredible.”
Their successes have definitely pushed each other to be better pitchers when it is their turn to take the mound. It is not a case where each one is only involved in the game on the days they pitch, though, as they strive to help each other even when they are not pitching.
“During games, we count on each other no matter which one of us is out there,” said Marino. “Since I usually pitch game one, Jen is keeping a pitching book in the dugout and writing down what each player does at bat, so no batter is taken lightly. When Jen pitches the second game, my catcher and I are in the dugout helping to call pitches so success can continue. We have confidence in one another and believe in each other no matter what the situation is.”
Joseph is 10-4 with a 1.72 ERA. She has struck out 91 batters in 102 innings, numbers that could land her the true ace role on another team. But she loves her situation here, and the friendship and gamesmanship that she and Marino share is something that she would not trade for a few more starts on the mound. Marino and Joseph were able to make the transition to college athletics together and help each other every step of the way.
“Ashley and I have worked very hard this season,” said Joseph. “With a year under our belts, we were able to relax and settle down because every game wasn’t as much of a surprise anymore. The transition from high school to college was hard, but we have definitely discovered what it takes to be successful. Ashley and I are both competitors. We always find parts of our games that we need to improve on. We have a great relationship both on and off the field, and I know she will always be there for me and she knows I will always be there for her. Pitchers always have each others’ backs.”
There is no shortage of friendliness between Marino and Joseph. The opposing teams in the NEWMAC are wishing that these two pitchers would spread some of that friendliness their way, as both women have stifled opposing hitters with nasty pitches all year long.
It is a blessing when a softball program has an ace come through the program, one that can be relied on through thick and thin. It is that much more of a blessing when a program is given two, and instead of settling with their talents, they push each other to be better each and every inning.