Author: Sant Kumar
Occidental’s softball team looks to the players’ unity and cohesiveness to help elevate their talents and carry them through the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC). With two consecutive wins under their belt, the Tigers are well on their way to meeting their championship goals.
This year’s softball team boasts some very gifted players, such as Lindsay Gross, Gabriela Chavez, and Tasha Serna-Gonzalez (seniors). These individuals are not only dedicated to further developing their own skills, but also those of new first-years. “I feel like the veteran girls really embraced the freshmen and brought us together. The great friendships I’ve made with my teammates add to the reasons that I’m glad I decided to play,” Jerika Barron (first-year) said.
The first-years’ strong performances on the field have not gone unnoticed by the more experienced players. Jacqueline Shimamoto and Meghan Luera are two first-years garnering positive attention this season. “Jackie mixes up [our] line [by] being our only lefty. She is a great lead off hitter and has to be one of the best center fielders in SCIAC,” Ashley Noone (sophomore) said.
Noone also praised Luera’s efforts, calling her a great catcher and predicting that she will see a lot of playing time behind the plate throughout her Occidental career.
Like Shimamoto and Nuera, Barron is quickly making a name for herself. She is known by her teammates as one of the most versatile players on the field and always makes hard contact at the plate.
The warm reception the first-years have received from their more experienced teammates has put the new players’ initial fears to rest. Like Barron, Shimamoto is grateful to her teammates for making the transition to college softball easier. “At first I was a little intimidated because I did not know anybody, but they were so welcoming so I really had nothing to worry about,” she said.
Though the team is committed to developing strong relationships, they are also firmly dedicated to playing the best game they can. As a result, competition for spots and playing time is intense.
“Earning a spot on the team is challenging. Nobody is guaranteed a spot whether [they are] a senior or a freshman. Spots can change weekly. Everybody works as hard as they can in order to fight for positions,” Shimamoto said.
Fall workouts have pushed the Tigers to the limits of their physical capabilities, causing them to maximize their talents. Coaches constantly modify the workouts so that all of the skills necessary for being a great softball player are developed. Though most players welcome a regimen that will prepare them for the tough SCIAC opposition, some players were surprised at the intensity and seriousness of the program.
“Before actually starting practices, I thought that playing softball here would be less serious than it really is. I really like the actual program because it has a good balance of practices, weight lifting and conditioning,” Shimamoto said.
The coaches also contribute to the team’s optimism, especially concerning their ability to win this season. They believe in their players and push them to improve each week by providing advice and strategy that come from experience.
“The coaches are also great. They are extremely confident in our players and really know their stuff. The team and the coaches are optimistic about this season,” Barron said.
Noone feels she can relate to the coaches because they all played profession as well as college softball and know what it means to be a student athlete. “Coach Jodie and Heather both played professionally and really love the sport. They know how to fire us up and our practices are always full of drills to help us refine our skills and work together better,” Noone said.
On Saturday, Feb. 5, the team will play its first game against USC Club Team at Bell Field. The SCIAC season starts one week later on Feb. 12.
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