After making it to the Championship game of the Big East league last spring and finishing with an 8-2 record, Andover Softball graduated four Seniors and one Post-Graduate, and three members left the team. This season, its roster is compiled of nine returners and seven newcomers.
Despite having sixteen athletes listed on its roster, Andover has been plagued with a plethora of injuries since its start this year, and has barely been able to field a team for the 2019 season, according to Katie Morris ’21. Currently, seven members of the team are recovering from injuries varying from jammed fingers to back pain which also vary in prognosis. Despite these setbacks, the injuries allow new players to have exposure in the game, according to Co-Captain Rachel Moore ’19.
Moore said, “The injuries started before softball season even began. There were a couple pre-existing injuries that became worse, and it just continued with a concussion during the very first practice. A lot of people are playing in positions that they may not be familiar with. On the brighter side of things, newcomers specifically have been given more opportunities as a result of the injuries.”
According to new and injured team member Grace Flanagan ’21, some possible causes of the injuries may be inexperience, pre-existing conditions, and not enough practice time.
Flanagan said, “I feel like we give it our all, but because we have had so little time practicing and playing, it sometimes gets messy and sloppy and things happen. But a lot of it is freak accidents, like Haven [O’Sullivan ’22]’s injury, Katie’s finger. Mine was pretty much a freak accident.”
This series of early-season injuries, along with the team’s small roster, may impair the team, according to Moore.
“We knew that numbers would be tough from the beginning since we got no new recruits this year, but the injuries have made it even more difficult. We are faced with the likelihood that we may have to forfeit games because of it,” said Moore.
Despite only having nine players—the minimum number of players required to play a game–on the diamond against Andover High School last Wednesday, the team was able to dig itself out of a 6-0 hole after the seventh inning with returner Jacque Harrington ’20 scoring a three run homerun to clench the win.
The team was able to pull a win on Wednesday with its short bench; however, it has doubts about being able to return to the championship at the end of the season, given the troubles it has faced so far.
According to Morris, the newcomers to the team bring beneficial talent, making the possibility of another dominant season realistic.
Morris said, “I think anything is possible for us as long as we continue to work hard and play for one another. Just because we have a lot of people new to the team doesn’t mean we lack talent; each newcomer brings something special and new to the table.”
In contrast to the beginning of the season last year, this year’s team did not have enough definite players to travel to Disney for a preseason training trip. According to Morris, the training trip offered time to bond with the team, but even without this opportunity this year, the team has meshed well.
“It would have been so nice if we had gotten to go to Disney and had that bonding experience. It’s been a lot of just getting to know people and getting to know how they play—we have been really good at coming together as a team. We’ve talked about this a lot in practices and games, like ‘How can we support each other?’ when we’re faced with adversity, whether that’s coming back from a 6-0 deficit, or it’s that we only have nine players for a game and we really have to work hard and keep each other focused–keep each other on our game–so that we can try to avoid injuries as best as possible,” said Morris.
According to newcomer Katie Wimmer ’21, the returning team members have created a welcoming atmosphere and provided mentorship in the sport.
“Half of the team is people who have never really played softball that much before, so it’s a lot, but the people that have been there have really been encouraging and have helped us learn the game really quickly. I played second base the other game, and Brooke [Fleming ’20] was right over my shoulder telling me every play, and it was really helpful. It shows what a good environment [Andover] Softball is and how much of a welcoming team they are,” said Wimmer.
Wimmer attributes her and other teammates’ ability to pick up the game so quickly to exposure in other sports. Wimmer, Anna Bargman ’21, and returning member Hannah Cuff ’21 are members of the Nepsac Class A championship winning field hockey team as well.
Wimmer said, “The coaches said, ‘We just need people who are athletic and we can teach them the game of softball.’I think I have just used my knowledge from other sports. You know, stopping the softball is the same as stopping the ball in field hockey…. It’s actually really nice because the newcomers are getting the playing time they need, but we’re just there and we’re helping. People like Anna Bargman have been amazing and actually have had really good impacts on the team.”
Though there may be present challenges, according to Wimmer and Moore, the future of the team will benefit from the influx of new players, and the team is growing stronger.
“I have heard a lot about new talent coming in in the Class of ’23 and new Lowers and such, but I am really excited to see the team next year because we have all these numbers now of people who know how to play softball,” said Wimmer.
Moore said, “Everyone is so open to playing new positions, especially because we know that we have our teammates’ support. No one will ever get down if there is an error, and we all try to share our knowledge with each other. In a way, it has made us a closer and more communicative team… I think they have honestly made us tougher, which should help us moving forward and once we get everyone back.”