BY TYLER MILLIKEN // March 8, 2017 //
For the first time in 20 years, the softball team failed to make the Commonwealth Coast Conference Tournament and the only thing on their mind this year is redemption.
Since suffering their final sweep of the season at the hands of Suffolk University last May 4, Head Coach Bruce Weckworth has added six freshmen and named another captain in senior center fielder Mikayla Korona.
The Bellingham native joins classmate Marissa Bruno who held the title along with Amy Nolan last year before Nolan graduated. As the team has changed personnel and leadership roles, the dynamic of the squad is a little different compared to years past; “I think that there’s more energy to the team this year, positive energy,” Korona explained.
While a majority of the team is returning players, Korona and Bruno have played a major part in helping freshman adapt to this new level of competition. Neither captain is willing to take things slowly, with this being the last time they can represent Curry on the diamond.
Their first crack at that last shot comes this Sunday down in sunny Fort Myers, Florida, starting the day early with a 9 a.m. first pitch with SUNY Brockport. That first pitch is just the start of a grueling 40-game season spanning just six weeks of the calendar.
Over that month and a half, a lot of things can happen and Coach Weckworth knows that to be true entering his 22nd year at the helm and owning the program’s all-time Win record. But more than anything, with 40 games in 42 days, strengths and weaknesses of teams are exposed over that breakneck sprint.
In his eyes, one big struggle that plagued the Colonels last season was the inconsistency in the pitcher’s circle. Starters were failing to set the tone early in games, or the bullpen squandered leads in later innings.
With new pitching coach Kathy Berardi assuming the role close to the beginning of the season she did not have much time to acquaint herself with the pitching and catching staffs. Now with an entire offseason to advise her personnel groups, things have shifted in the circle.
Berardi has implemented her own throwing program while developing relationships with the four catchers under her watch. Coach Weckworth has been quite impressed with the development of the girls behind the dish this offseason.
“I also think who you throw to matters. I’m really comfortable. It doesn’t make the pitching better, but it can make the pitching better,” he noted.
Of course, the pitchers can throw their best stuff but if the seven fielders behind her can’t make plays, that’s a big problem.
Defense is a significant component to coach Weckworth’s philosophy in building a successful pitching staff and a well-rounded team. While the team may have some questions in certain departments, their ability to make the routine plays has been a key focus each day in practice.
However, the corner outfield spots have been sort of a revolving door in those practices, with nobody quite stepping up and making Weckworth call one a starter. “We’re looking for a right fielder and a left fielder to come in and play hard, hit [well, and] hit cutoffs when they’re making throws,” Weckworth said. “Defense wins championships.”
Since the first practice of the offseason, coach Weckworth has been preaching one message to his team: “It’s about getting back to the playoffs. [But] it’s not just about getting back, it’s about making some noise and causing some damage,” he vocalized.
According to Captain Korona, the team has run with this message and is using it as motivation to help get the softball team get back to their winning ways.
For the second year in a row, the Colonels have a doubleheader scheduled every time they take the diamond and will play six days in the Sunshine State to kick their season off. Their home opener is the Tuesday after they get back, March 21, as they host Wheelock College for a non-conference matchup.