By Jill Campbell
The beginning of a collegiate sports season often involves a lot of easing in. It means adjusting to the loss of seniors to graduation, the addition of players to fill those spots, and even just embracing the joy that is stepping back onto real grass and dirt again. It’s a time to feel things out. The Springfield College softball team, however, did no such thing.
The bats were just as hot as the weather in Kissimmee, Fla., as the Pride kicked off their 2017 season with a total of nine wins out of 10 games played. These victories came in all shapes and sizes, ranging from the mercy rule in six innings to a walk-off win in the bottom of the 10th. This was also the debut of new head coach Kate Bowen, who couldn’t have been happier with the team’s performance.
“We knew we had big gaps to fill, but everyone just came in really hungry regardless of if you were a freshman or a senior,” said Bowen. “Everyone was just so ready to go for the season.”
That anticipation was accumulated through the Pride’s lengthy seven-week preseason filled with conditioning drills and scrimmaging, all elements that added to the overall success they came to find down south. This extended time was also useful in becoming acclimated to the loss of senior starters Jenna Webb, Melissa Nelson, and Elizabeth Joseph, who had served as anchors throughout their time on the team. Seven new members were added to the team to compensate.
With a newfound mix of seasoned veterans and promising newcomers, it was the perfect recipe for success. Talia Loda, Nicole Cring, and Shelby Allen all had strong outings in the circle, Loda even throwing a no-hitter through 10 innings before a single dropped into right field.
Junior Kristen Drobiak was electric at the plate, racking up five doubles and plating 14 runs on her own. Carianna Gasdia picked up a pair of doubles of her own and reached base 18 times. There was strong freshman representation from Allie Wheeler and Gabby Alfieri who both had two doubles each, Wheeler also sending her first ball over the fence in game 7 of the trip.
The hunger to get back on the field when Springfield returned home was so unstoppable that they traded their bats for shovels and decided to dig out the field themselves. Several other students showed up, including members from the football, baseball, rugby, and gymnastics teams, just to name a few. And while the home opener ended up being moved to Coast Guard, it’s safe to say those two wins were dedicated to all those who came out to lend a hand.
“It was such a great effort by everyone. It was nice to be together with the community and to see how many people were willing to help, really showed the Humanics philosophy in action” said Bowen.
Since returning to the 413, the Pride has been ranked No. 24 in the NFCA and several members of the team have been recognized for their standout performances. They’ll look to keep this momentum going into Friday’s game against WPI.
Bowen isn’t looking too far down the road, though, despite the recent excitement of success. The grind is just beginning.
“We’re just taking it game by game,” she said. “We’re staying focused and trying to get better every single day, and all the girls have really bought into that. We’re moving forward.”