Sunshine and the crack of the bat, two things anyone who has ever played baseball or softball knows are a sign of good things to come. For the Springfield College softball team, they got to enjoy playing the game they love while enjoying the warmth of the Florida air.
For the Pride softball team, the trip was a success in more than one way. Not only did the team replicate their 9-1 record from last year’s Florida trip, but the trip also provided a chance to become closer as a team. Second year Head Coach Kate Bowen was happy with the way her team bonded over the course of the trip.
“Nothing was planned. The team gets to bond by simply living with 10-12 teammates for the entire week in one house and being with each other throughout the week,” she said. “We had a family dinner where each house (including the coaches) cooked something to have one big dinner enough for 30 people.”
From a player’s perspective, the bonding with teammates made the trip a worthwhile experience outside of the success on the softball field. Starting second basemen Meghan Sastram was happy with how the team was able to become even closer than they previously were.
“We did a number of different things like family dinner and team BBQ’s. Some of us also went to Disney on our off day which was a lot of fun.”
As previously mentioned, the Pride got off to a hot start by winning nine out of their ten games; matching the fast start made by last year’s team that made the NCAA tournament. There were a lot of notable performances in Florida over the course of the week, but the core of seniors led offensively by Kirsten Drobiak, Carianna Gasdia, and in the circle by reigning NEWMAC Pitcher of the Year Talia Loda, made the biggest impact.
Following solid performances last season, the three seniors picked up where they left off. In ten games, Drobiak hit .526 with six home runs and twenty runs batted in. Gasdia hit an even better .581, driving in seven runs and stealing six bases. In the circle the Pride got stellar pitching out of the senior Loda and out of junior Shelby Allen. Loda pitched in six games earning a record of 4-1 and picked up a save while pitching to a 2.22 ERA. Allen pitched in five games and finished with a 4-0 record and a miniscule ERA of 1.42.
The first day of action on Sunday March 12th was the positive start the Pride were looking for as they beat Trinity 5-0 and Arcadia 11-3 in games shortened to five innings. The Pride got a solid outing form Allen against Arcadia, but the standout of day one was Loda who twirled a two-hit shutout while striking out ten in the Pride’s game against Trinity. Good pitching will certainly be a focal point for the Pride as they believe they have as good of a 1-2 punch in Allen and Loda. Bowen was happy to see the offseason work pay off for Loda and Allen to start the season.
“The key to success was how hard Shelby [Allen] and Tal [Loda] worked hard in the offseason and it showed for both of them down in Florida.”
For the Pride, day two started off with an 8-0 victory over St. Norbert that saw Shelby Allen go five scoreless, before sophomore Marisa Valenti pitched a scoreless final inning. Against St. Norbert both Drobiak and sophomore outfielder/pitcher Allie Wheeler coming off a strong freshman campaign both hit home runs. One of the most anticipated matchups of the trip was game two on day two when the Pride had a rematch against Salve Regina who beat them in a regional held at Potter Field last year. The Pride prevailed 6-5 in eight innings. Despite coughing up a 5-0 lead the Pride won the game on a Gasdia walk off bunt single.
Being led by a senior group has its benefits, especially to younger players like Wheeler and Sastram. “Watching players like Kirsten and Carianna, along with the rest of our seniors (is) really great. To learn from them and look up to them as role models (helps a lot),” said Sastram.
Day three of games for the Pride brought two more wins, a 6-2 win over Cortland who was receiving votes in the most recent polls and a hard fought 2-1 win over Webster. Against Cortland, the Pride got another solid performance from Loda in the circle pitching a complete game. Sophomore shortstop Alexyss Conley had two RBI’s to pace the Pride’s offense. Against Webster, Allen was phenomenal; throwing a complete game allowing just five hits and one run while striking out ten. Wheeler came up big for the Pride with two hits including an RBI triple.
Day four featured a tight win against Wooster, 5-4, before the Pride’s only setback in Florida to William Paterson, 9-1. Against Wooster, Drobiak had a big day with a homerun and two RBI’s while Loda was able to strikeout the final batter of the game with the tying and go ahead run on base to earn the save. The lone highlight in the Pride’s loss to William Paterson was another Drobiak homerun.
Despite playing ten games in five days, Bowen was happy with the way her team was able to maintain a high level of competition throughout. “I was happy that we competed every inning of every game we played in during the Florida trip.”
The final day of games saw the Pride’s offense come alive and beat Beloit 15-7 before beating Wisconsin Lutheran 4-0. Against Beloit freshman pitcher Taylor Mancinone, picked up the first win of her collegiate career. However, the star of the game was Drobiak who went five for five while driving in eight runs. In their final game in Florida the Pride got another complete game shutout from Loda, and another Drobiak homerun to cap the trip.
One thing the Pride did extremely well in Florida was hit for a high average, while not leaving to many runners on base. Bowen was happy with the approach she saw from her hitters. “We have been doing a good job of staying aggressive in the batter’s box and putting the ball in play when we are down in the count.”
For the Pride as they get back to the cold weather that softball in New England in the month of March can provide Sastram believes that playing ten games in Florida has prepared the Pride for what’s to come.
“I think playing all of those games definitely gets us ready for the season because every time we play, we play doubleheaders, including this weekend we play Amherst on Friday and Eastern Connecticut on Saturday.”
As Sastram mentions due to the doubleheader scheduled for Wednesday being moved to Saturday the Pride now play back to back doubleheaders. This will be a big test for the Pride as Friday’s opponent Amherst was ranked seventh in the latest poll and currently has 9-1 record. The Pride’s next home game comes on Saturday when the rescheduled doubleheader against Eastern Connecticut takes place at Potter Field.