By Tyler Browne
On March 9, 2020, the Springfield College softball team opened their season with a 5-2 victory over Amherst College. By the end of the week, the team’s annual spring break trip to Florida was cancelled, as was the remainder of their season. The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic caused all NEWMAC sports to be put on hold, and it wasn’t long before Springfield College made the difficult decision to send the student body home for the remainder of the semester.
Over a year later the Pride are back, on an all-new Potter Field, and ready to compete again. While the 2021 season will be unlike any other, coach Kate Bowen and her team are glad to be back on the field.
“[The announcement of a NEWMAC season] just brought so much life back to everyone. It’s just been a year of waiting and seeing what’s going to happen,” said Bowen.
“I think the whole team has been ready for this since last year. Everyone on the team has gotten one season taken away, whether that be their [high school] senior season or a season at Springfield, and I think everyone’s been ready for the past year,” said pitcher Gillian Kane, a junior.
Bowen is entering her fifth season as coach, and she is joined this year by graduate assistants Mal Pojar and Lauren Pitney.
In a normal season, the Pride would play around 40 games in March and April, as well as potential playoff games in May. In 2021, they will play just 10 games, all on weekends, giving them an unprecedented amount of time off between games. Additionally, every game will be against NEWMAC opponents, and the team was not able to make the annual trip to Florida, where they would typically play their first 10 games, for the second consecutive year.
“In a pandemic, everything is different. The biggest difference is everyone’s gonna have so much rest. That is something we are not used to. We are normally playing six games a week. All the teams will definitely be well-rested. Obviously, we wish it was more games, but we’re happy that we have a season and we’re happy to be getting on Potter Field March 20,” said Bowen.
Kane doesn’t see any reason to worry about the extra time between games, as it will only aid the Pride in their preparation.
“I’m only excited for the extra time between our games. It’s just more time for us to get ready, more time for us to prepare. We have great coaches who analyze everything we do, everything the other team does, so it’s just more time to prepare and learn from our mistakes in the last game. We all have that mindset of attack and redeem, so I know we’ll be great,” said Kane.
Over the past year, Potter Field has undergone a complete renovation. The grass and dirt are gone, replaced by a state-of-the-art turf field, much like the renovations done to the baseball field prior to the 2018 season.
“It’s beautiful. It’s only going to help us being on this field, especially when it snows. We can get on it so much quicker. Right now, we’re really just trying to get to know the field. There is no longer dirt and we’re not used to turf,” said Bowen.
Despite the unprecedented layover since their last game, Bowen doesn’t anticipate any fatigue from her team when they take the field again on March 20.
“This year looks different. Starting [the season] March 20th, we won’t be scrimmaging another team. At that point [in a normal year], we would have scrimmaged two teams. It’s not a struggle at all, there’s just so much excitement,” said Bowen.
Although the team practiced throughout the fall semester, it wasn’t known whether there would be a spring season, and the team’s ability to scrimmage was hampered by the number of players living in Alumni Hall, which was quarantined for two weeks in October.
Going into the season, Bowen is impressed with the leadership she has seen from everyone on this team.
“When we talk standouts, I think what’s awesome about this team is the resiliency. We have done everything together at this point. I’m just so excited to be in the same dugout, on the same team, on March 20, as a unit.”
In 2021, expect to see big things from Kane. The junior started 17 games in 2019, ending up with a 9-5 record and a 4.18 ERA, giving up 59 runs (51 earned) and striking out 39. Kane had an historic career in high school, becoming the first player in the history of New Canaan to have 100 hits and 500 strikeouts.
Also noteworthy will be the two new shortstops appearing for the Pride. With Alexyss Conley graduated, Bowen plans to use both sophomore Dana Serricchio and first-year Breannah McCann at the position. Conley was an All-Conference player, who finished her collegiate career with a .336 batting average and a slugging average of .513, and it will be interesting to see how these two players fill that void in the infield.
“[Serricchio’s] a powerhouse at the plate. She can kill the ball, she’s a magnet out there in the field, she’s just amazing,” said Kane.
Kane is also excited to have junior Ava Fernandez in center field. In her freshman season, Fernandez made only three errors while compiling a .949 fielding percentage.
“She makes amazing catches out there. Whenever I’m on the mound and she’s in center field, I know that no ball is being dropped,” said Kane.
In their last full season, the Pride went 22-16, including an 11-7 record in NEWMAC play. In the NEWMAC Championship, they lost both of their games, finishing their season with a loss to Babson. However, with the team they have in 2021, it would not be surprising to see the Pride move even further into the playoffs.
2021 will be a season unlike any other. Teams will play about 30 fewer games than they normally would and the Pride won’t see any teams outside of the NEWMAC. The Covid-19 pandemic will cast its shadow over the season, as spectators won’t be able to attend games and players will be masked and practicing social distancing off the field.
But it’s springtime and softball is back. The Pride have an extremely talented team and an all new Potter Field to go with it. The Pride will start their season on Saturday, March 20th, with a doubleheader against WPI.
Photo: Jack Margaros/Springfield Athletics