The team aims to build more bonds to better them on the field.
Last year, Eastern Regional High School’s softball team fell short by one run against Washington Township High School in the first round of the playoffs, abruptly ending the season.
Despite this shortcoming, the players picked up a set of strategies they’re now carrying over into this season. From strengthening pitchers to sharpening outfielders, the team realized it’s incessantly seeking new skills to acquire.
But, easing into the 2018 season, Eastern’s chief aspiration is to sustain and foster a certain chemistry.
“It felt like, last year, people weren’t ready to be there for themselves or other people,” senior pitcher Rachel Waro said. “But, we rebuilt that, and that’s hard to do.”
Since the team lost several starting players last year, a batch of freshmen filled their spots, which led to some physical and emotional hurdles that essentially took a whole season to tackle.
“Half way through the season, they started to build chemistry, and that’s when they started really rolling,” head coach Laura Paquette said.
In 2017, the team averaged about six errors per game, as the entire outfield was composed of new girls. However, a disconnect arose as players found themselves more focused on individual improvement, which did not necessarily align with team techniques.
Now, the team strives to mend that lack of communication, which they say ultimately stems from being in a competition with oneself.
“People started to realize it wasn’t OK (to make errors), and when they realized there were going to be consequences, they started going to the other extreme where they couldn’t recoup,” Waro said. “That really broke down our chemistry and trust in one another, knowing somebody could be there the rest of the game even if they made an error, which was hard to come back from.”
Since personal discouragement can bleed among fellow players, it’s crucial the team bonds well with one another, so there can always be an open dialogue, mending each other with compliments and constructive criticism.
“In the outfield, especially, it’s a lot harder to read, reading off of your infielders, and they just had to learn that,” junior pitcher Madison Guyer said.
The team recognizes that, in making errors, it’s beneficial to lift one another up while holding one another accountable.
“I think the №1 thing is counting on each other and the coming together as a team — not trying to be too individualistic,” junior catcher RaeLyn D’Onofrio said.
This bond is especially apparent in Eastern batter-catcher relationships, particularly between Waro, D’Onofrio and Guyer.
Of the several skills the team hopes to accomplish this year, the “battery” — a collective exertion between the pitcher and catcher — is among their top focuses.
“We’re willing to compromise and listen to each other,” Waro said. “It’s just a mutual respect for one another’s knowledge of the game.”
“I think it’s all about taking and forgiving. It’s about going back to the mound and talking about it. It can definitely be worked out,” D’Onofrio added.
That means understanding the other players’ techniques, as the pitchers say “contact pitching” is Eastern’s “best friend.”
They say this means working toward ground balls and pop-ups, not necessarily strikeouts.
Along with all the other aims, Paquette says she has hope for this season because last year’s struggling freshman class has now rid itself of any lingering inaugural varsity nerves.
With key players returning and chief lessons gaining, Eastern has high hopes for the 2018 season.
“The two biggest things with this team are attitude and effort — the two things that we can control. And I think everyone has that down perfectly,” D’Onofrio said. “So we just need to carry that throughout the season.”