The women’s softball team will open their season at the National Training Center in Clermont, Fl. on Thursday, March 7, where the young team will play seven games over three days.
“I have high hopes for us in Florida. It’s always a great experience-you’re finally outside again playing softball on dirt without a ceiling,” senior shortstop Kate Hoop said. “It’s a time for us to work on offensive and defensive plays, become confident as individuals, and most of all, come together as a team to prepare and get excited about the upcoming season.”
Coming together as a team over the course of the trip is particularly important for the team, as incoming talent includes two freshman pitchers, a freshman and a sophomore transfer in the outfield, and two new catchers — altogether, nearly a quarter of the team.
“With this team, we could be anywhere in the league,” said head coach Joe Abraham. “There are just so many unknowns. We lost a lot of talent from last year – they were all starters and two or three were all-league. We have a lot of new people.”
Despite the unknowns, having so many new players across the board brings greater versatility, depth, and support to the team, Hoop said.
“Each and every one of our new players are contributors to our team across the board,” Hoop said. “They’ve all got good hearts and smiling faces everyday. They’ve been a great addition to our family.”
The young team will be grounded by returning senior center fielder Taylor Schulty, who was first team all-GLIAC last season; senior second baseman Miriam McKay, who has started for most of the last three years; and Hoop, who is in her fourth year starting at shortstop.
“We have three seniors, as we call it in our game, up the middle,” Abraham said. “They’ll anchor our team.”
In addition to making it to the GLIAC tournament and performing well there, the team aims to “play smart, aggressive softball year round,” Hoop said.
The mental side of the game needs to improve from last season in order for the team to perform competitively, assistant coach Erin Porter said.
“We need to improve our composure, shaking off mistakes instead of letting them snowball through the game and the season,” she said.
The team is working to improve these elements through hard work both on and off the field, beginning with indoor practice four weeks ago. The team is averaging just under 20 hours per week, including both softball practice and weightlifting, Abraham said.
“Practices are going great,” Abraham said. “Players are focused and excited and they look pretty sharp for being indoors.”
However, the team is looking forward to resuming outdoor practice.
The softball team has only been able to practice outdoors once – on the football field – since practices began in late January. The team uses a different ball indoors and the grip that pitchers need isn’t the same. Also, for infielders, a ground ball indoors is completely different than one outside.
“I keep telling everyone we’re cautiously optimistic,” Abraham said. “We could be a really good team. But we need all of our returning players to improve on last year. Between that and the new players, we’ll be a pretty good team.”