Softball team returns from tough Florida trip

The softball team has returned from their Florida trip with a few needs to address. After posting a 1-11 record during their spring break trip, the Hawks need to find their winning ways early on this season.

In Florida, the Hawks relied heavily on their veterans, including sophomore Rachel Wandzilak, senior Haley Ledbetter and junior Micaela Pohl. All three are projected starters in their positions.

Last season, Wandzilak appeared as a strong No. 2 pitcher to junior Juliet Hulme, who opted not to return to the team this season. Ledbetter continues to recover from her knee surgery, but after starting at shortstop for nine of the 11 games in Florida, she will likely take that spot at the beginning of the season. Pohl, who started at catcher for 20 of the 44 games last season, is expected to take over behind the plate for the recently graduated Mikaela Grosso.

“Our Florida trip is always a great learning experience. We played tough competition down there but never gave up once. We learned to work together and pick each other up when we were down no matter the circumstances,” said Wandzilak. “And of course, bonding with the team over the course of nine days is one of the best parts about the trip.”

The struggle the Hawks had in Florida was at the plate. In five of their 11 games, they were held to at least one hit, including one no-hitter against Transylvania University. Each team they faced in the tournament was a Division III program and while the Hawks took second place in the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) last season, they will have to find ways to put the ball into play to get back to that spot.

Out of the 11 games in the tournament, only six players appeared in 10 or more — one being freshman Katrina Goria. In those games, Goria batted 27 times, generating six hits and four runs. She also led the team in doubles and placed in the top-three for at bats, runs and hits. The freshman circled through infield positions, but was favored in the second base spot despite sharing time at shortstop throughout the tournament.

Beside the tough record, the good news for the Hawks is that Salve Regina University — the team that beat them in the CCC championship — lost all but one game in another Division III tournament, as well. So while the Hawks may be frustrated with the outcome of their games, their conference opponent put up similar numbers.

After their return to Bristol, the Hawks were set to face off against Coast Guard Academy in their home opener on Tuesday, March 20, but the weather caused it to be postponed. A season ago, the Hawks lost both games in the doubleheader to the Bears.

The Hawks now have more time to fine-tune both their offense and defense as they prepare for three consecutive in-conference doubleheaders in a span of five days starting Saturday. They will first take on Gordon College, Nichols College and finally, Salve Regina. Against these teams last year, the Hawks went 3-3 — including dropping two games to the eventual conference champions Salve Regina.

“I think we are eager and ready for our home opener on Saturday, said Wandzilak. “And most importantly, excited to get into conference play.”