After a disappointing loss in the first round of the playoffs last year, the Renegades, Stuyvesant’s girls’ softball team, are back with hopes of salvation. In order to pursue a city championship, the team must rebuild after losing several talented seniors to graduation last year.
Rebuilding is not an unfamiliar process for high school teams, but this year will be particularly rough for the depleted Renegades. Five starters departed from the team last year, leaving behind major gaps in the line-up. Fortunately, senior and co-captain Morgan Higgins remains, unrivaled as the team’s dominant ace. With an overwhelming fastball and a great defensive glove, Higgins ate up 101 innings last year, as she pitched every one of the Renegades’ 16 league games in 2011.
There are several girls who can pitch and have in the past. However, these pitchers are still rather raw; the team has no established starters besides Higgins. As a result, it will fall on the ace both to perform and teach this spring. “I’m going to teach someone to pitch,” Higgins said, laughing. Despite the joking tone, the lack of depth in the rotation could prove to be a serious problem, especially when there are back-to-back games and Higgins is fatigued.
Sophomore Marie Frolich could help fill the pitching void. Frolich wasn’t on the team last year, but has already piqued Coach Vincent Miller’s interest in early workouts. The team, under immense pressure to develop their rotation in Higgins final year, will embrace any signs of strength in their younger pitchers. After she graduates, any pitchers who gain experience this spring will be expected to carry the load in 2014.
Unfortunately, putting together a deeper rotation will be only one of many tasks on the Renegades’ agenda. All three starting outfielders from last year graduated, and their production will be hard to replicate. Former left fielder Emma Pollack (’11), was the team’s best hitter with an average of .429 in the regular season, and former center fielder and leadoff hitter Carolyn Lehman (’11) had one of the highest on base percentages on the team, .524. This leaves gaps not only defensively in the outfield, but offensively in the line-up. In addition to outfielders, a new catcher and second baseman will also be needed. With a potentially inexperienced pitching staff taking the mound it will be essential to have a strong catcher behind the plate.
“We are going to need a lot of people to step up to fill in those positions. We are going to have some girls that are going to be able to do that,” Miller said. The holes may seem daunting, but it is not as if the team is looking for a miracle in finding new starters. There are several players who have spent time on the field in past seasons and have put in a lot of practice time, who can hopefully make a comfortable transition to the starting roles. Being a starter for the first time is a significant change of expectations for the juniors.
The captains know that growth during the pre-season will be crucial as they prepare for league games. If the girls are comfortable in their positions they will play better and commit fewer errors, which will be key in their success. The players are well aware of how an inexperienced player’s errors can kill a team’s momentum, as Bushwick was able to score the go-ahead run off two infield errors in the Renegades’ 2-1 playoff loss last season.
Production on the offensive end will require hard work from the rookie starters. Hitting may not come easily, but learning effective base running could make all the difference, as the Renegades do have plenty of speed. Junior Liana Penny, who only had three stolen bases last year, hopes to have more opportunities to show off her speed as she splits time between catcher and outfield this spring.
Higgins recognizes that new players may lack the skills to get clutch or extra base hits. To overcome this, she insists that they strengthen their fundamentals in order to scrap together runs. “I at least want to teach bunting for hits. That’s a big thing in softball,” Higgins said.
Senior and co-captain Anna Slade is optimistic that the players will learn quickly. “It’s not like we have to start from scratch. I feel like we still have a whole team,” Slade said. Miller is planning on scheduling non-league games at the beginning of March as well as over spring break to give sophomores and juniors even more game time to prepare.
Despite these obstacles, the team’s goal for the regular season is still to be Manhattan A Division champions, something the Renegades have yet to achieve. The players are confident that once the girls get accustomed, the Renegades will be prepared to compete as a young defensive team to be reckoned with.