As spring looms and practices move from indoor to outdoor, the Emerson softball team is encouraged with the way it’s implemented the necessary changes to build off of last season’s successes.
Senior outfielder Amanda Horton said the makeup of this year’s squad has her optimistic heading into her last season.
“It’s going to be a great year coming up,” Horton, a marketing communication major, said. “This is our year to shine through.”
The Lions, who are coming off a 14-18 record overall and 4-14 in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference, added 2012 Emerson graduate and former utility player Kendal Peiguss to their coaching staff. For a program that began to hold their heads a bit towards the end of last year, sophomore pitcher Casey Tsamis said Peiguss is already making an impact in the short time she’s been here.
“She brings so much energy to our team,” Tsamis, a journalism major, said. “She’s what we need – a coach to hype us up.”
With ambitions to improve, the Lions have added a new strategy of charting pitches headed up by Peiguss. According to Tsamis, this process requires all pitchers to throw all of their pitches to find out what is effective.
After one pitch is thrown, the catcher writes down a tally mark as to if the pitch hit or missed its intended location. After each throws their complete repertoire of pitches 20 times, Peiguss hands them back a percentage chart for how accurate they were at the end of the day. The object of this is to decide what to throw during a game.
“It’s exciting for me because I’m a pitcher,” Tsamis said. “We’re doing a lot of things different and this one seems to be going very well.”
As he heads into his 16th year as the head coach of the Lions, Phil McElroy said his club’s ability to sweep their final NEWMAC doubleheader against Clark University last year gives them something to build on. They only allowed four runs combined in the two victories.
“Towards the end of the season, we started to figure out our pitching rotation and we started to figure out how to execute with runners on base,” McElroy said.
During the offseason, Horton said the Lions played fall ball, carried out extensive weight lifting sessions, and recently began indoor practices in preparation for the upcoming season. She said all the extra work should benefit her team in the long run.
“We want to be mentally stronger and smarter on the field,” Horton said. “It’s been really intense but it will pay off in the end.”
The Lions will open up their 2016 season more than 1,300 miles away from home in their annual trip Clermont, Florida as they take part in THE Spring Games. There, they will encounter 10 contests in just six days. This trip is not only the longest one this team will embark on, but senior captain Courtney Fee said it also has the lengthiest impact.
“It builds the team and builds the camaraderie,” Fee, a writing, literature, and publishing major, said. “You get to go back to travel ball or club ball where all you’re doing is playing five games during the summer and you get to focus on it – not worried about school. You’re with your closest friends.”
The first game on the docket for the Lions while in the Sunshine State is on March 6 against local rival Emmanuel College.
“Emmanuel was pretty good last year,” McElroy said. “We used to be in the [Great Northeast Athletic Conference] with them. [Rob Spofford], their coach, used to be a coach on our staff so we know them really well.”
The Lions picked up five of their 10 nonconference wins last year during their journey to Florida. Once NEWMAC play started, however, they struggled.
The Lions finished the season ninth out of 10 schools in a conference that only takes the top six teams to the playoffs. Fee said last season’s conference downfalls weren’t due to a lack of effort, but it didn’t always show up in the box score.
“Everyone had an intense drive to do well,” Fee said. “Now it’s about taking that drive and honing our skill more so we can apply it to the field.”
Tsamis said she thinks they have the ability to make reaching the postseason a reality.
“Everyone has to give 150 percent,” Tsamis said. “We have to be clutch in clutch situations and play better as a team. We can’t get distracted or discouraged.”
Production on the field is essential, and Horton said her team is getting tighter as a unit to get that done.
“Last year we were close and this year we’re closer,” Horton said. “We’re using that bond to get it done on the field.”