February 15, 2001

Final Firsts

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As I stepped into the “turf room” for the first practice of the softball season, something felt different.

What is it? What feels so different this year? Maybe it’s that anxious feeling that comes with each new year. The first year is never the same as the second.

Or maybe it’s the large group of talented rookies combined with an upperclass full of skill and leadership.

Maybe it’s the fact that I’m graduating this year and this was my last beginning.

It was the last time that I would step onto that painful green floor with my teammates and feel the nervous excitement surrounding our first captain’s practice of the spring.

It was the last time for me to stop and watch everyone buzz around to put up the pitching machines, tees and screens — setting the stage for a productive practice.

It was the last time for me to look over at the pitchers as they warmed up by throwing to their best friend, the wall.

It was the last time for us to enjoy our freedom of hats and practice pants before Coach Dick Blood would enter the ring.

It was the last time for the seniors to be softball players on the first day of practice.

But, maybe there was something else that set it apart. Maybe that step felt different because something has changed. This season will be different than last and, hopefully, it will be better.

Don’t misunderstand. With 30 wins, last year wasn’t awful, but I would probably be safe in saying that most of us were disappointed with our performance when all was said and done.

So, why could this year be better?

As always, the expectations for our team are very high. The best is always expected and this is something that won’t ever change, at least while Coach Blood is around.

But that isn’t what I’m referring to here. After winning our first Ivy League Championship in 1999, it was hard for us to bounce right back into action in 2000. We did something amazing in 1999 and the looming expectations and pressure for our next season did contribute in some way to our losses. It’s really hard for any team to defend a title, and that held true for us. Now, we want to prove ourselves again and show the league what our team is all about.

With eight new freshmen, the squad may be more stacked than ever before, and the young blood brings a freshness that the team may have lacked last year. Expect to see these girls in action. They hail from Florida, Texas, Illinois and all over the Northeast, and they are ready to play. They have brought back that healthy competitive edge.

Sitting above the rookies are six juniors and seven seniors. Those are some pretty impressive retention numbers. Our upperclassmen seem to share a connection because of all the hours we have spent together and because of what we achieved two years ago when we earned our first league title. Now, there is only one more chance for the seven of us and we are excited to see what we can do this year.

Speaking of upperclassmen, if you ask senior third baseman Allison “Babba” Batten why this year might be better, her response will most definitely be: “ME!”

That’s right, softball fans! After a one-year hiatus from the world of sports, Batten is back. She is still sporting a sun tan, which she earned on the sunny beaches of Jamaica last year, but don’t worry — we aren’t too jealous. We’re just glad to have her back. Babba’s name is scattered all over the record books, but she is most notorious for being the career leader in RBIs (with 81 in only two years) and for her 1998 season record of 22 bases on balls (a number she’s curiously proud of).

Talking to other teammates, I have gotten different reactions about the 2001 season.

Senior captain Charlotte Brombach said that this year will be better because “we have a stronger senior class and we are more confident.”

Senior outfielder Sara Sinclair and junior first baseman Kristen “Hersh” Hricenak both commented on the “positive energy” that now exists on the team.

Hersh said: “We’re all pulling for each other and that positive energy can help us win games, even if we lack talent in certain areas.”

Junior catcher Christina Trout mentioned that we have dropped our “undefeated attitude” and that the hard-working freshmen have definitely contributed to the more positive team atmosphere.

This week, we were able to get outside and have some more realistic defensive practice on Neimand-Robison Field. It warmed up just a little and we had a great time, bundled up in multiple layers and diving all over the grass.

The outfielders, relieved to be out of the turf room, turned fly ball practice into a fun competition of “best catches” and “best scoops.”

Freshman outfielder Erin “Grace” Sweeney won the “best catch” award, as she sprinted to her right side, dove and caught the ball before hitting the soft turf.

We hope that this positive energy and all of our hard work will help improve our winning percentage this season.

Archived article by Kelli Larsen