BRISTOL - It has been a strong start to the season for the Bristol Eastern softball team and a large part of the early success has been the contributions from the younger players on the roster.
The Lancers have only given up eight runs in four games this season, with six of them coming in Thursday’s 13-6 win over Northwest Catholic, while scoring 54 runs of their own. And Bristol Eastern has had plenty of underclassmen in the starting lineup during this torrid run. On Thursday, the Lancers had four freshmen in the lineup: Lauren Aparo at first base, Erin Girard in the circle, Alyssa Hackling in right field and Taylor Keegan at second. Sophomore Paige McLaughlin made the start at catcher, while freshman Lyzah Corliss and sophomores Maura McGuire and Aliana Rivoira entered the game in the later innings.
The starting freshmen combined to go 3-for-14, drive in four runs and score five runs. McLaughlin went 3-for-3 at the plate with two RBI and one run scored.
“They’re contributing right from the start of the season. They haven’t missed a beat,” Bristol Eastern coach Scott Redman said. “We’re a young team. We mix [young] players with some veteran players. It’s a good balance. They’ve played a lot of softball so I think that they have a confidence in themselves and it really has showed early in the season so we’ll see.”
While the young players have stepped up on offense, they have also been dependable on defense and that starts with Girard. In her debut season in the circle with the Lancers, Girard has been impressive. Thursday’s was her fourth win in as many starts, as she pitched five innings with eight strikeouts and surrendering just three hits and one earned run.
“That’s what we want to see. We want to see her grow and get better,” Redman said of Girard. “She’s had a really good start for a freshman. I think with her work ethic, she’s only going to get better. She can do some good things in four years.”
Like she did on Thursday, Girard has used her ability to mix pitches and vary speeds to keep opposing batters guessing.
“I throw my two-seam a lot and I try to mix corners,” Girard said. “Then we change the speed to keep them off balance, so I’ll throw a changeup.”
Being able to make a difference in her first season means a lot to Girard but she is also proud of how her fellow young players have performed.
“It feels really good to start as a freshman pitcher for varsity and keep the team going,” she said. “We all contribute. It just feels good, definitely.”
The Lancers started the season 4-0 in convincing fashion and one of the biggest positives is that the lineup isn’t even complete. While the younger players have been complimented by older, more experienced players, one of the key seniors has been missing for Bristol Eastern.
Nicole D’Amato is currently dealing with an injury, keeping her strong bat out of the Lancers lineup. But, according to Redman, the emergence of these young players has taken the pressure off of D’Amato as she approaches her return.
“I know it’s tough for her but it makes her feel good, too, that she doesn’t have to rush and push it back,” he said. “Starting off the season the way we have, jumping on teams early and staying ahead, she doesn’t feel rushed. She’s taking the right precautions to get back, get healthy. But it being her senior year, she wants to be on the field and hopefully she’ll be back soon and she’ll definitely help us.”
Despite the fast start, Redman is not satisfied. Over the first four games, he has seen plenty of mistakes but he is confident his players are willing to work on them and they will get better as the season continues.
“We’ve played some opponents that haven’t been as experienced as us, so [confidence has] definitely helped,” Redman said. “We haven’t played a flawless game yet - not even close. So we’ve just got to keep working on things we need to work on and we keep working on that in practice and in games and trying to stay locked in.
“And, as the schedule gets tougher, we’re going to need to stay sharp. That’s what we’re striving for.”
Josh Kestenbaum can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter: @K_baum30