An air of excitement resonates throughout head coach Paige Smith’s office as the upcoming softball season approaches. Everyone in her office is working just as hard in the build up to the first game as the players and coaches are on the field. Even at 11:30 a.m. on a Friday, players were hard at work in the batting cages below Smith’s office with a trip to Las Vegas for the 2019 Marucci Desert Classic looming.
“We’re excited about training every day and we’re not afraid to fail,” Smith said “We’re excited for practice. They don’t want to leave when practice is over, and if they fail one day, they’re not so distraught that they can’t come back from it.”
Last season’s frustrations no longer linger on the minds of Smith or her players, and it shows in the team’s eagerness to get back going. Fresh faces in the form of six new freshmen and new hitting, pitching, and assistant coaches emphasize the developing renaissance across every part of the team.
“[The freshmen] are hilarious,” Smith said. “We’ve got everything from Kelsey Gumm who is 18 going on 35 to Marisa Pla who is just happy to be anywhere doing anything. They’ve all come together, and they all work really hard, which is the best thing about them.”
Despite all the new personalities entering the locker room this season, the players and coaches have taken to one another comfortably and confidently.
“[The players] love the new coaches, and I do too. Everyday it’s like softball mad scientists in here and there’s no such thing as a bad idea,” Smith said.
The upperclassmen have also played a tremendous role in helping this transitional phase move along as smoothly as possible.
“Something really cool happened this year,” Smith said. “A lot of our returners, led by a really good core group in the senior class, met before school started and made sure that they reached out to these six freshmen. [The upperclassmen] need to take care of this team, and they’ve done an exceptional job.”
Chrisa Head, one of the team’s three captains, is a one of those core players Smith refers to within that group.
“She’s stepped up as a person and as a leader. The changes she’s made to her game and herself have positively impacted the team and myself,” Reganne Camp said about her teammate.
Camp, a pitcher, is also one of the key returning players after a season in which she struck out 110 batters and had an ERA of 3.29. Beyond her responsibility of setting the game’s tempo from the pitcher’s mound, Camp also knows that it is her duty to guide the newcomers through their first season.
“There are times where bad things are going to happen because it is a long season but recovering from them is what we’re trying to teach,” Camp said.
Never the type to demand followership from her teammates, Camp prefers to lead by example both on and off the field. Since the end of last season, she has worked primarily on improving her mental game as to not become emotionally overwhelmed in tough situations. It is an admirable trait to recognize and change the flaws in one’s game for both personal and team growth, and it is a change Camp hopes will help her to reach her goal of becoming Big East Pitcher of the Year.
“It’s the not best team that wins, it’s the team that plays the best that wins,” Camp said. “I think that as long as we come together, we can beat anybody we play.”
Justin Sousa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Sousa7474.