What happens in Vegas…or, in this case, what happens in Florida stays in Florida.
“Thanks for bringing that up,” St. Joseph’s outfielder Christina Quintana joked when The Brooklyn Eagle asked about her softball team’s 0-6 trip to Florida. “It was tough, but we’re basically a brand new team and because of the weather up North we were only able to even get out to the field to practice outside three times. It was basically our spring training.”
The Bears have already had eight games cancelled on them due to the cold or rain and were swept in six games down in Florida. Now that the calendar has turned to April, they are ready to begin playing games in the Northeast and are optimistic about their season despite having a team with eight freshman including a few in prominent roles.
“We’re excited,” said head coach Frank Carbone. “It’s going to be a young team, we only have two seniors and two juniors, but they are talented and it brings a level of excitement. Typically having so many freshman on a team makes it a bit nerve wracking. This isn’t nerve wracking though because of the talent. What we’re looking to do now is get some rhythm, chemistry and experience.”
The Bears will have plenty of time for gelling this month because with all of the postponements that they have had they are now set to play 22 games in the next 27 days. They’ll certainly get experience so the only question remains is whether such a stacked schedule will leave them tired out or firing all cylinders before the playoffs.
“I think it’s actually going to be better this way,” catcher Cassandra Molinari said. “I’d rather play consecutive games than have off days. You stay mentally sharp this way because you are always in it. You’re not worried about the game from the day before because you have another game come up so quickly.”
Despite the youth of the team and the grueling schedule coming up, the Bears expect to make it to the national tournament. “New team or old team, we’re playing to make it to nationals,” Quintana said.
In order to reach nationals, the Bears are going to have to pull together quickly. With so many games packed into one month, Carbone stressed that it’s more of a sprint than a marathon. If they struggle for a prolonged period, they will quickly be out of the playoff race.
The hope is that ace pitcher Jackie Perillo can carry them long enough for some of the freshman to step up. Perillo is a junior from Howard Beach that converted from the outfield last season and had a 6.76 ERA in her first year on the mound. Bigger things are expected from her this year.
“The beauty of softball is that if you have one dominant pitcher, you can survive and even thrive,” Carbone said. “We think Jackie will be that pitcher. Her only issue is control which is key. When she’s on, she’s a legit No. 1 pitcher.”
Behind Perillo will be a couple of freshmen pitchers — Jamilynn McGowan and Kristen Candelaria.
“Jamilynn got roughed up a bit in Florida, but she’ll be fine,” Carbone said. “She’s learning what it takes to pitch at this level. Kristen is more of a wild card for us. She pitched well in Florida. It was more in mop-up duty, but we think she has a lot of potential and that she’ll eventually be a starter for us.”
The lineup, so far, has been a work in progress with Carbone trying to figure out how each of the freshmen fit into it. He feels like despite its uncertainty right now, the Bears have enough depth to anchor it in the meantime with Perillo again playing a big role as well as Molinari and Quintana.
“Molinari speaks softly, but carries a big stick,” Carbone said. “She hit nearly .500 for us (.467) down in Florida and we’re going to rely on her in that three-spot. Jackie is our table setter. She’s going to leadoff, she gets on base and has a ton of speed. And Quintana gave us a lot of pop last season that we’re going to need again. The rest of the lineup is talented, but it’s hard to say where they are each going to end up.”
The Bears start their 22 games in 27 days marathon on Tuesday against Mount St. Vincent. The goal is clear, but right now they aren’t even worried about that. After they missed eight games in the past two weeks, they’re mostly eager just to get back on the field.
“We’re tired of the gym,” Molinari said. “At this point we would even play in the rain. Anything to get out on the field. We’re as prepared as we’re going to get and we’re just ready for some games.”