When senior Jennifer Joseph was deciding where she wanted to go to college, one thing was on her mind: playing collegiate softball.
Along with Jen for her first visit to Springfield was her younger sister, Elizabeth, who fell in love with the school as soon as she visited the campus. Now, both sisters have found their place on Alden Street, most notably in front of and behind home plate on Potter Softball Field.
The Josephs, who are born two-and-a-half years apart, started playing softball around age eight. Jen, an Athletic Training major, began pitching when she was 10-years-old. Elizabeth, a sophomore Applied Exercise Science major, played different positions growing up until her mother, who coached the Josephs’ summer travel team for a few years, gave her the chance to try catching.
“My mom decided that since I was very athletic, she would throw me behind the plate,” Elizabeth said. “Ever since then, I’ve loved it.”
Meredith Joseph, a Springfield alum who majored in Physical Education, also played softball for the college. She was a pitcher on the team for three years.
Jen and Elizabeth are not the only teammates who were familiar with each other before stepping onto Potter Field. Several of the team’s players, according to Jen, knew of each other before attending Springfield, either through attending high school together or competing against each other in summer travel leagues.
“A lot of us are from Connecticut,” the senior said. “[My teammates] had heard of us and we’d heard of them, even though we hadn’t necessarily played.”
The younger of the two, Elizabeth Joseph, has spent the last two years adjusting to the collegiate game.
“You’ll see better pitching, better batters,” Elizabeth said. “Batters one through nine, they can all hit, whereas in high school, not all one through nine can hit. Maybe one through five, six batters can hit, and the rest are usually easier to get out.”
Elizabeth said that along with the higher level of play in collegiate softball come the added responsibilities that she did not have as a high school catcher.
“I never called pitches in high school; my coach always did,” Elizabeth said. “Learning that aspect of the game was completely different – understanding why we throw this pitch and that pitch and looking at the tendencies of hitters.”
Jennifer said that her sister is familiar with her style of play after catching for her for a year in high school and during the summer as part of a travel team. Still, there is always room for improvement.
“[Elizabeth] will come up to me after an at-bat and be like, ‘What did I do?’” Jen said. “She uses me as a little coach sometimes. She helps me too because she knows when I’m on and when I’m off.”
Having Jen as a pitcher, Elizabeth said, has allowed her to continue growing as a player.
“Even if she doesn’t like the pitch that I call, she’ll shake me off and I’ll learn for the next time,” Elizabeth said. “It’s a good learning experience. We have a pitching book that we go back and refer to for what we did, for certain batters. We see what we can do for their next at-bat. We do pretty good with pitch-calling, and we’re on the same page for the most part.”
The Stamford, Conn. duo has already proved itself to be successful. The Josephs helped lead the Westhill High School softball team to a Connecticut State Championship when Jen was a senior and Elizabeth was a sophomore. Now that they are in college, they must continue working hard to maintain that level of success.
“She’s naturally talented,” Jennifer said of her sister. “She has that inner drive, but she kind of needs to be pushed a little bit more. I think I do that with her because she respects me and looks up to me. I push her to reach her full potential.”
This season, the team added three freshmen catchers to its 21-player roster. Elizabeth, as one of two returning catchers, is now considered a “veteran” of the program, though she is only a sophomore.
“She’s really taken on a leadership role with how we run things,” Jennifer said. “Catchers are important because they call a lot of plays. She really took [the freshmen] under her wing and showed them the way.”
Elizabeth recognizes that, as an underclassman, she doesn’t have as much experience as some of the older players, but she is still able to help out her teammates as much as she can.
“Coming into Springfield, I feel like I had a lot of knowledge of the game,” Elizabeth said, “but I’ve learned a lot more since being here. [The freshmen] seem to look up to me in different ways and what I do. We have different plays and different settings, and catchers have to call pitches. Trying to get them more knowledge of the game is probably one of the biggest things I try to do.”
The catcher and pitcher combination has to be a close-knit unit in order to run an efficient operation.
“If your catcher and pitcher don’t really get along, your pitcher’s probably not going to do well,” Elizabeth said. “It’s hard if you’re not on the same page – it throws off the whole pitcher-catcher duo and it can lead to more hits and more walks.”
The Joseph sisters, along with the rest of the Pride, will look to remain successful as they head into the NEWMAC Championship tournament.