The season is over and you finally have downtime. Your aching muscles get to rest and you’re able to catch up on classwork. No more early morning practices or late nights coming back from games. This is something that every athlete usually looks forward to after a season. However, this came way too soon for our Roger Williams University Hawks softball team this year.
To invest yourself physically, mentally and emotionally all year and then not even make it into playoffs is heartbreaking. Leading into this season, I knew that we had some big shoes to fill after losing five seniors. But after seeing the team this fall, I honestly did not think this would be a rebuilding year.
After only a couple practices, it was pretty evident that a lot of the upperclassmen stepped into leadership positions in order to take over last year’s seniors’ roles — and we got a solid group of talented freshman. Because of this, we had a good fall ball season. If there was a year for us to win the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) Championship, I truly thought it was going to be this year.
Florida took us by surprise. Every spring break we head down to the Sunshine State to play the first 25 percent of our season. We always have some tough competition while we’re there and this year was no different. However, we only managed to win one out of 12 games while we were there. This was a huge confidence killer. It also made us realize we had some things to work on and only a very short amount of time from when we came back to Rhode Island to fix them before conference play started. But as our record indicates, a lot of the same things that cost us games in Florida continued to cost us games back home.
This season we just could not finish a game. I think we all underwent some serious re-evaluation after each game. You start to think negatively and your confidence starts plummeting. One bad game starts leading to more poor performances. I couldn’t help but find myself sitting there in the locker room after games thinking, “What if I hadn’t hit the ball right to the shortstop? What if we were able to strike that girl out instead of walking her? What if we were able to get that ball in quicker to keep the runner from scoring?”
But no amount of “what ifs” would change the fact that we always seemed to have the lead in the first couple innings and then on the backside would lose it. It is more than frustrating to constantly go through this game after game.
We absolutely had the talent. We ended up having six girls named to an All-CCC team, as well as, a full roster of talented individuals that went unrecognized. But softball is not a game of individuals. You win as a team and lose as a team. A softball team is basically a machine and you need each part of that machine to be working all the time or else it won’t operate. If one gear stops turning, the whole machine is going to stop.
This basically describes our offensive game this year. There were very few games where every person in the lineup was hitting. We struggled immensely with not stringing hits together. There were numerous times when runners would be left stranded on third and/or second base; not getting them in and scoring really hurt in the long run.
Another aspect that constantly impacted us was the mental game. You can’t really do much when another team is bigger and faster than you, but you can control the mental part of the game. All of our coaches always stress “control the controllables,” and I think that is something we definitely struggled with. Having such a young team probably had an effect on this. More than half of the team is either a freshman or sophomore and the fact is that collegiate softball is different than high school. It is faster and you can’t get away with stuff that you used to do in high school ball. I think a lot of the girls were still undertaking this transition. So this mixed with still trying to build up their confidence led to many mental errors.
The season most definitely did not turn out how we expected, but I’m not worried. We have next season to redeem ourselves. It won’t happen overnight but we have all of the offseason to prepare ourselves for next year. This season highlighted our flaws so now we know what we need to work on and we’re more than ready to grind. We’re not going to let this disappointing season define our team. Next year, we’ll be ready to show up and show the conference that we’ve learned from our mistakes and that we are ready to take that CCC Championship trophy.