Like the exit velocity on an Alexis Walkden home run or Allie Prukop line drive, the speed of an Alannah Basile fastball or the quickness of Sara Foster defensively in the infield, four years flew by for the Seton Hall softball class of 2018.
As freshmen in the fall of 2014, the four Pirate newcomers came to South Orange with their families – Walkden from Cibolo, Texas, Basile from Levittown, N.Y., Foster from Long Beach, Calif., and Prukop from Coto de Caza, Calif.
It was the only time those four families were together until April 22, when the four were honored on Senior Day at Mike Sheppard Sr. Field.
“It was kind of like, bringing it full circle,” Walkden said. “We were really close with everyone’s family, so it was special because, my mom, my dad, my sisters were all here, but then, Allie’s [Prukop] parents were here, Sara’s parents made it out, Alannah’s whole family was here. So, it was really fun.”
Up until that final Big East home game, family was forced to support from a distance. For Basile, home in Long Island was not far and the proximity allowed for not only Basile, but also all four seniors to know they had a place to go to. When that was not an option, the four knew they had a family in each other.
“Alannah’s family was really great, they always brought us in, and, we could go to things with them,” Walkden said. “And then, for times that we couldn’t go to Long Island, we were each other’s family. And so, that was really, really great. Like I said, they were, they were three of the best friends I’ll ever have.”
The foundation for the four’s success can be traced to their freshman season when they played alongside a group of seniors that included Danielle DeStaso, Sara Haefel, Whitney Jones, Casey Moses, Jordan Moses, Sam DeMas, and Kaylyn Sanbower, the likes of which the current seniors still share close friendships with today.
“Usually you don’t come in and become best friends with the senior class as well as we did, but, they’re still the class that we hang out with the most,” Walkden said.
Inspired by her strong leadership and drive, Walkden reached the summit of the conference in her first season with a league-leading 20 home runs in 2015 that earned her Big East Rookie of the Year and First Team honors. She continued her top-level performance each year, culminating in a 2017 Big East Player of the Year award.
Meanwhile, Foster also penciled her name into the Pirates stat sheet on a regular basis from year one, starting 32 games in the infield in 2015. Building off her freshman season, Foster became a four-year starter for Seton Hall, finishing her final season as the everyday second baseman.
Prukop, a capable bat off the bench, enters the team’s final series against Georgetown on May 5 with 109 appearances, while Basile, who can pitch and hit, will enter the weekend series with 80 appearances as a pitcher and hitter combined.
That series will be the bittersweet finish to a long road that began in Denton, Texas on Feb. 6, 2015, when the four were far from the polished veterans they are today.
“I mean, the very first tournament always stands out, just because we were so excited,” Walkden said. “We played in Texas, so I got to, like, kind of be going home. And, everyone was so excited to be there. After the game and before the game we were taking pictures in our uniforms and just being like dorky little freshmen.”
It is those early memories that stand out the most, whether it be erasing a three-run deficit in the 2015 Big East Tournament against DePaul or watching their lives flash before their eyes on a Midwest road the next day, something they can laugh about now.
“After we lost the Big East Tournament, our senior class and our coaches went out to dinner,” Walkden said. “And so, they’re like, ‘Oh, there’s places close by, you guys can just walk to find somewhere.’ Well, we had had too much time in New Jersey already, where you just walk across the street whenever you don’t see a car coming. And, literally almost got hit by three separate cars, on like three separate occasions.”
Surviving to tell the tale, Walkden and her fellow seniors are in a similar position to the seniors they learned from in 2015. The current freshman class is made up of four, just like the seniors that will graduate.
Furthermore, the 2022 class has its similarities in performance with a standout in Payton Beaver, two more high-caliber performers in Janae Barracato and Baylee Allender, and a fourth promising prospect in Jaden Tate.
“They always come to us with anything,” Walkden said. “And, I feel like they keep us young; make us go out and have fun, remember that you’re only in college for so long, and, stuff like that.”
That last statement rings true now more than ever, as after a 3-0 loss to Stony Brook on May 1, Walkden, Foster, Prukop and Basile walked off Mike Sheppard Sr. Field for the last time as student-athletes.
Now, just one more opponent remains on the schedule, with two more days of games and three more chances to capture a victory. Even with the chance to suit up and take the field going away, Seton Hall softball will have the footprint of the seniors reflected in the freshmen and others who will remain.
“I can’t thank them enough for the four years that they’ve put in here,” coach Paige Smith said. “I feel bad that we can’t put them out on a better note. What they’ve done to this program is just amazing.”
James Justice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JamesJusticeIII.