Having a ball
November 1, 2013
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by Katie Parkinson, photos by Adrianna Ohmes, video by Lauren Langdon
At 2:45 p.m., two vans begin to pull out of the STA parking lot behind Goppert Center. Inside there is loud chatter as twenty softball players settle themselves, their backpacks, netbooks and softball bags into the tight, cramped area. All of a sudden someone draws attention to the rear windows and everyone looks back, eyes wide, mouths open before uncontrollable laughter replaces the shock.
Shouts of, “It’s Haley,” and “Oh my gosh! We forgot Haley,” ring out.
“Usually at practice she’ll come out a little bit late,” sophomore Sophia Cusumano said. “She’s at the trainer a lot [because] she has exercises she has to do, and I guess we kind of just forgot she was there.”
According to junior Grace Sly, if Sirokman had been left behind, they probably would have sent the JV bus back to retrieve her.
“I didn’t think it was funny then, but looking back on it makes me laugh,” junior Haley Sikorkman said.
The laughter doesn’t die out until Sirokman has clambered into the least crowded van, and they’re ready to leave STA again.
Within a few minutes the team has settled down.
Cusumano takes a Snapchat, freshman Martina Florido works on homework and sophomore Liz Countee enjoys a snack.
These are routine activities for the softball players, who squeeze into these vans for all their away games – about half of their total games.
“We only get out early if the game starts around 4:30 p.m. though,” Sly said.
By the time the vans pull up at Tiffany Hills Park for the JV and varsity games against St. Pius X High School at 3:15 p.m., talk has slowed, the bus has cooled down and a few people are taking naps against the windows.
Everyone is awakened, however, with the prospect of actually getting out of the vans.
“It takes four years!” Cusumano said. After the girls struggle to find their backpacks and netbooks, pick up their bags and fight their way from the back row of seats through the narrow walkway, ducking to avoid the low ceiling, the vans are finally emptied.
For the varsity team, who plays before JV, it’s all business. As they hang their bags on the dugout fence and change into cleats, coach Ty Abney yells, “Hustle up, let’s go!” and then the girls are warming up by the field.
Meanwhile, the JV team finds a spot in the shade on some side bleachers attempting to work on homework or just chat with each other, since they don’t have to warm up for their game until around 5:30 p.m.
However, for all the work and time it takes to be on the road, only parents and family usually come to cheer on their Stars.
“I just feel like soccer, basketball and volleyball are more popular,” Countee said. “And it’s like, softball goes on the same time as volleyball, so if you have to pick…”
Among teammates though, there is no lack of support.
According to Countee, the team usually does a cheer.
“We do the ‘Stars!’ thing,” Adams said.
“We don’t pray though,” Countee said. “And we don’t cry unless we’ve had a Watershed moment.”
“A what?” Sly interrupts. “What’s that?”
“You know, like a really emotional moment or turning point,” Countee replies.
“Oh, I thought you were talking about if one of us broke into, like a…” Sly laughs, trailing off at the end.
“That’s Watergate,” Cusumano replied, causing the JV team to burst into laughter.
It’s moments like these that being on the road makes possible.
Around 5:30 p.m. it’s the JV team’s turn to warm up, and the laughter and small talk subsides in favor of focusing and concentrating on practice throws and catches.
Shortly after, the varsity team walks off the field, red-faced but grinning, having won 19-0.
“I’m feeling pretty good after a big win like that,” junior Ally Drummond said. “It’s pretty fun beating a team that much.”
Following the varsity team’s footsteps, the JV team also wins their game 15-2.
By this time the sun is setting, and almost everyone has split ways, opting to ride home with their parents rather than back to STA in the vans.
“Usually there’s one or two people who ride back [in the vans] because their parents couldn’t make it to that particular game or whatever,” Cusumano said.
The remaining girl, sophomore Paige Suholaski, easily slips into the front seat of the first van. Outside it’s dark, and the only interaction taking place is a conversation between sophomore Suholaski and Abney.
Around 9 p.m. the van pulls up to the practically silent STA campus, officially ending the softball team’s six-hour journey.
That is until next time – when the whole loud, crowded, sometimes chaotic, sometimes fun process will begin again as the softball team hits the road.
Three players shared their thoughts during different stages of an on-the-road game.
Warming up: “I’m not really thinking that hard about the game, but when I start throwing, I get into a different mindset,” senior Laura Dobens said. “So warming up is just building up into the mindset, and throwing, for me, automatically gets me into that.”
In the dugout: “We all try to stay loose, but also stay focused at the same time,” junior Ally Drummond said. “So we’re joking around, but also trying to cheer on our teammates and keep a solid mentality for the game.”
On the field: “[I’m thinking] ‘Do good and don’t throw up and know what I’m doing with the ball,'” sophomore Rachel Allard said.
Skills and Drills
In order to keep their softball skills in shape, both the JV and varsity teams have to participate in various exercises.
“I’m not really thinking that hard about the game, but when I start throwing, I get into a different mindset,” senior Laura Dobens said. “So warming up is just building up into the mindset, and throwing, for me, automatically gets me into that.”
Bucket game: Players line up in two teams down the first and third base lines, according to senior Erin Farmer. One at a time, each girl fields a ground ball to try and hit the buckets stacked on top of each other on home plate. If one bucket is knocked off, the team is awarded two points. If the bucket is only hit, the team is awarded one point. Whichever team gets to the designated number of points first wins.
Triangles: Triangles are timed springs around half the field – base to goal post to goal post back to base, according to junior Grace Sly. More runs are assigned if the entire team doesn’t make it in time.
Fungos: Coach Abney hits ground balls at the players who then have to field them, according to Haley Sirokman.
Part of a whole
Although the softball players form a tight-knit team, they also hold their own individual places within the group.
I am the delightful one. – Laura Dobens
I am the second mother. – Paige Suholaski
I am the sassy one. – Jackie Adams
I am the control freak. – Marie Sarson
I am the injured one. – Sophia Cusumano
I am the forever JV player. – Grace Sly
I am the short one. – Martina Florido
I am the awkward one. – Rachel Allard
I am the bunter. – Megan Klinginsmith
I am the one with no “softball savvy.” – Elaina Bailey
I am the one people forget about. – Haley Sirokman
I am the one everyone likes to give a hard time to (in a good way). – Maddie Watts
I am the mom. – Erin Farmer
I am the lizard. – Liz Countee
I am the competitive one. – Sydney Hunter
I am the leader. – Grace Bullington
I am the favorite Sarson. – Kara Sarson
I am the Ashley – Allison Bresette
I am the obnoxious one. – Mary Gibson
I am the home run hitter. – Ally Drummond