After losing a multitude of players, softball utilizes newfound talent

Sarah Eisenach '15 practices pitching at a softball practice at John Witherspoon Middle School. photo: Rhea Braun

Sarah Eisenach ’15 practices pitching at a softball practice at John Witherspoon Middle School.
photo: Rhea Braun

The girls softball team finished its 2013 season with a PHS record of 11 wins and a roster full of seniors soon to graduate. Now, with almost half of the team made up of first-year varsity players, the girls are focused on building up a team for the years to come.

Several of last year’s varsity players, including Maddie Cahill ’13, Helen Eisenach ’13, Charlotte Gray ’13, Marisa Gonzalez ’13, Hannah Gutierrez ‘13, and Charlotte Heller ’13, graduated last year. Together, the seniors claimed 75 of the 2013 team’s 126 runs and helped Princeton win a 2012 Mercer County Tournament game that set a precedent for the team; the Little Tiger’s 3–2 MCT defeat of Lawrence High School was the first time the girls were able to advance in the tournament.

“We’re a new team now so we can start over and build together,” said Nancy Gray ’17. Gray will be replacing her older sister, Charlotte Gray ’13, on the field as one of the newest varsity members.

Even though the team lost many seniors, Head Coach David Boehm still has high expectations for the program. “I have confidence that the girls who played last year and who are still here will carry the team, and if we get somebody [that] surprises us, that’s great,” said Boehm.

Although several of these more experienced players did return for the 2014 season, the girls started tryouts on an even playing field. “We had six seniors last year … What I always like to say is that we lost six people but … have nine slots open because every spot’s really open,” said Boehm. Softball teams have nine players on the field at a time but have more players on the bench. Of the 32 girls that tried out, 13 made the cut. According to Boehm, the team will now rely partially on seasoned players like Jessie Campisi ’14, Sarah Eisenach ’15, and Kelly Swedish ’16, and partially on newcomers like Gray and Kayla Volante ’17.

“[Eisenach] is a pitcher, a junior, [and] will be very instrumental. Kelly Swedish, who was a freshman last year, played in the outfield. She will be a vital player,” said Boehm. “Kayla Volante, she’s a freshman who’s coming up, and Nancy Gray, whose sister graduated last year, she’s a girl who could help us.”

“There is so much talent there; cultivating it and making it cohesive will help us in the end,” said Campisi. “I am not going to expect a state title, but our goal is to win as many games as we can and see how far we can get.” Since the focus of the team is now building a program that will grow stronger in years to come, Campisi has realigned her expectations for the season and recognizes that it will be difficult to compete with last year’s record.

“I don’t think there’s that much pressure, but there’s a need for us to play well and perform well,” said Gray.

Training has been different for the preseason and the regular season because the team is focusing more on conditioning. The players have been working throughout the off-season on their individual skills, which helps them prepare for the season.

“Since I am a pitcher, I have been throwing all year round and I practice with another team as well, [which] plays in the summer and into the fall,” said Eisenach.

“To prepare the team for the season, something that we are stressing a lot this year that was not stressed in the past is conditioning. I think that in order to be a good softball player you need to be [a strong] athlete too,” said Campisi.

The training and the new talents that arise will be contributors to the upcoming season, so the captain wants everyone to feel at home.

“It’s hard to start on varsity, and it’s a big role to fill in. I went through that so I do not want them to be afraid. They are welcome on the team. The goal is to be a big family,” said Campisi. The girls had double practices over spring break, during which they often go into town between practices to get something to eat and talk.

With so many new players, Boehm is still determined to bring the team together to have a consistent and successful softball season. “They know they can do it, it’s [just] a matter of getting it in their head that they can do it,” said Boehm. “I think their confidence will be okay.”