The Hillsdale softball team fell 7 – 4 to Division I Toledo University, who is lead by former head coach Joe Abraham and former assistant coach Jim Zoltowski, whom the Chargers call “Z”, in an exhibition game Oct. 7.
For the upperclassmen, this was their first time playing against Abraham. Senior infielder Amanda Marra said she felt a little strange at first.
“I played for coach Joe for 3 years, so being on the same field with him but on opposing sides was a strange feeling,” Marra said. “I understand how he thinks about the strategy of the game though, so it was fun trying to guess what signs he was going to give or how he was going to position his players.”
Senior outfielder Katie Kish had similar feelings throughout the game.
“It was odd seeing another team do what we had always been used to doing in the past, like the pregame huddle, running the ball in to the pitcher from the outfield, and Z calling pitches against us,” Kish said, “but it was a very friendly atmosphere and we all enjoyed competing against them.”
In the top of the first inning, the Chargers scored early.
“Offensively, we scored with two outs, and we hit a lot of line drives at players,” Head Coach Kyle Gross said. “Our offensive approach did not change because we were playing Toledo, and that was good to see, and it was successful again.”
The Chargers were unable to maintain their lead due to a couple of errors throughout the game.
“We didn’t have our best defensive outing,” Gross said. “But no matter who was in there, we still executed plays and did things.”
Abraham and Zoltowski were not the only familiar faces in Toledo’s dugout.
The Chargers faced former teammate Erin Hunt in the pitching circle as well.
“I was so excited to get the chance to hit off of Erin,” Kish said. “It was weird at first, but I gave her a peace sign and it was like nothing ever changed and it was just another intrasquad.”
Marra said she remembered hitting off of Hunt last year and felt prepared for her at-bat.
“I know the types of pitches she likes to throw and how she normally sets up hitters, so I felt pretty confident in the box,” Marra said. “I just had to keep telling myself to lay off the rise ball.”
The Chargers found ways to manufacture runs throughout the game. Junior outfielder Victoria Addis said she was happy with the team’s offense this fall season.
“We’re more aggressive than we’ve been in the past,” Addis said. “We’re swinging at first pitches, in situations where we never would have.”
Junior outfielder Carlin MacDonald-Gannon said she has never felt more confident at the plate.
“We’ve been pretty disciplined at the plate,” Gannon said. “Even if we’re not getting on base, all of our players are having good at bats.”
Both Addis and Gannon said they have developed more power and consistency within their swings through Gross’ coaching style.
“Coach Kyle is really strong with hitting technique and power,” Addis said. “I know he has a lot he wants to work on with everyone’s power, and we’re gonna have really strong hitters.”
Freshman Morgan Cox said she loves Gross’ coaching style and has enjoyed her first fall season as a Charger.
“I love absolutely everything about the team; the girls, the lifestyle, the friendships,” Cox said. “I can’t imagine being anywhere else playing with anyone else.”
Gross said the team will be working on improving its offensive power and defensive strategy over the fall and winter months.
“Our pitchers are gonna continue to work execution, that will be important,” Gross said. “We’re gonna work on overall strength of our team in the weightroom and refining some defensive techniques.”
Marra echoed Gross and said she is optimistic about the spring season.
“I’m excited to see how much we’ll continue to improve over the winter,” Marra said. “Our team has a reputation to uphold from last season, and I am confident that we will be able to achieve an even higher level of success this season.”
The Chargers also played Jackson Community College Oct. 9 in two exhibition games and defeated the Jets with scores of 4 – 3 and 11 – 0.