The 2017 softball season was filled with hardships on and off the field, finishing 2-33 and dealing with the unexpected death of starting pitcher Madison Tupper. The opportunity to erase the memories of last season will have to wait, with the first two weeks of the 2018 season cancelled due to a lack of players.
Softball requires a minimum of nine players on the field during defensive innings. Assistant Coach Mark Cooley said the low headcount came as a surprise given the team’s solidity in previous seasons.
“We had a lot of kids who were here in the fall session and the winter session that committed to the year that quit last second,” Cooley said. “50 percent of the players that were here over the fall session that committed to the year didn’t follow through with what they said they were going to do.”
Cooley attributed the decisions of the departed and remaining players to differing levels of commitment and said he was startled and disappointed by those who left.
“Any time someone gives me their word and says this is what I’m going to do, I believe them,” Cooley said.
Cooley said the low interest in softball this year was not for lack of leadership effort.
“I recruited last year for the very first time ever in the history of the softball program,” Cooley said. “I went and talked to 12 different local high schools and four different club teams.”
Cooley said these visits, conducted entirely without a recruiting budget, yielded 32 potential team candidates, but only one student followed through.
“It’s all volunteer time calling up high school school coaches, begging to come out to talk to the group,” Cooley said. “It starts there. You’ve got to go out and recruit and make it happen somehow.”
Cooley said that although he and head coach Breanne Parr were able to find replacements for their five unexpected losses, they realize that their season’s journey is only just beginning.
“There are some kids out here that have never touched a ball before. This is college ball, so the level of difficulty is high,” Cooley said. “We have a large hill to climb.”
While the softball coaches struggled to keep their team alive, the campus-wide advertising piqued the interest of a number of women who never played softball before.
Francesca Canales is one of the five new players on the team. She had never played before last week, but figured that this was the perfect opportunity.
“Literally the day that school began, that day, I saw fliers and thought, ‘Oh, okay, I’ll go out there after my class,’ and came over here and talked to coach and that was it,” Canales said.
If the team did not pan out, Rebecca Torrez said she would have considered playing at Mission College, which is closer to home, but preferred the competitiveness of Pierce’s CCCAA division and her new team.
“We get along pretty good,” Torrez said. “We have a bunch of new players now but we’re all pretty friendly and outgoing so I think our bond will get better as the season goes on.”