As the warmer weather is starting to kick in, so has the conference play of softball season, which after eight games has the Pride sitting with a 4-4 record.
After a disappointing 2016 season in which the Pride finished in seventh place with an 8-10 conference record, Hofstra looks to improve on last year’s mark and land a spot in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) tournament, which it failed to do last year.
Overall, the team carries a 14-16 record, a number due in large part to a young core of talent that has been thrown into the fire for this ball club.
Add youth and inexperience to the fact that the Pride has missed a total of six games due to cancellations for weather, and it is clear to see why the squad has yet to find a groove as conference play heats up.
“The weather and our field haven’t been cooperating so it’s really tough to establish a routine,” Hofstra head coach Larissa Anderson said.
Aside from this, the infield for the Pride is full of new faces. After moving Nikki Michalowski to the outfield, Lacey Clark remains as the only infielder with experience at her position.
“Megan Patierno’s in her first year at third base. I have a freshman at shortstop and I have Kaitlyne Musa, a first year player, behind the plate,” Anderson said. “Lacey Clark is the only veteran in the infield right now so it’s great to see that she’s anchoring and stepping up her level of play, but she just needs some support around her.”
With so much inexperience on the dirt for the Pride, the importance of a veteran within the group is amplified. Clark has undoubtedly been the one to count on when it comes to the leadership and experience that a veteran player brings within a young core of players.
Offensively, hitting .322, Clark is also one of the team leaders in RBI. Clark has driven in 17 runs so far this season, second only to Patierno’s 21.
The power to go along with her efficiency has been on display as well, blasting four home runs to stand right behind Patierno and Brielle Pietrafesa for the team lead. Pietrafesa has five and Patierno has six this season.
On the other side of the senior leadership from Clark is the emergence of a young pitcher on the mound for Hofstra.
Freshman Sarah Cornell has been called upon to handle a majority of the duties from the circle, quickly displaying the poise and confidence that it takes to have success at the collegiate level.
“The team knows that every time Cornell is on the mound that they have an opportunity to win the game,” Anderson said. “She’s very competitive, she competes, she has the ability to single handedly get batters out.”
Cornell is currently fourth in the CAA in strikeouts with 76 and holds a 11-7 record in the circle for the Pride.
As her experience has grown game by game, Cornell has not come short in developing her game.
“She came in and she really only threw a fastball, so she’s able to throw all four different quadrants. She has an off-speed pitch now, so it’s made her very competitive. She can throw a screw ball in, a curve ball out, a rise ball up and her off-speed. So she has a lot of tools that she’s able to throw,” Anderson said.
Along with Cornell, Kristin Hallam has been another freshman who is playing bigger than her class standing.
“Kristin Hallam really is a pleasant surprise. We’ve never had a freshman start in the middle infield in this program. So her being our leadoff hitter, and also starting at shortstop is a huge attribute to her – her ability and the level she’s able to play at,” Anderson said.
Joining Hallam and Cornell as freshmen for this Pride team are Sam Tomasetti and Alyssa Irons, who when put together are half of the first year players on this emerging squad.
Although the youth of this team is evident, Hofstra has some core veterans to go along with Clark that have returned to continue contributing for the Pride.
Juniors Pietrafesa and Michalowski both have played well thus far. Pietrafesa is second for in home runs with five to add 17 RBI and Michalowski has been the Pride’s anchor in the field, leading the way with 123 putouts and a .984 fielding percentage.
Patierno, Brittany Allocca and Musa are three other upperclassmen who are key instruments in Hofstra’s quest for success.
To go along with production, some upperclassmen for the Pride are bringing with them the experience of a CAA championship victory in 2015.
“It’s those returners that have experience of a championship trying to instill it into the younger players. The younger players have never experienced winning a championship, so you have the veterans that continually try to instill the standard, the level of play and the expectations that they need in order to reach that ring,” Anderson said.
In the meantime, the Pride is at .500 in CAA play, and currently holds the fifth spot in the conference, which would propel the team into the tournament as of right now.
“We’ve got to take it one step at a time. We’ve got to put ourselves in the situation that were going back to the conference tournament. We have the ability to win the conference. But we need to play a lot better than we are right now. We need our leadership to step up and they need to find ways to win,” Anderson said.
As the Pride closed out a double header sweep of the University of Delaware on Saturday, the team will try to take away the positives from a great game and hope to begin a streak as conference games become more frequent and more crucial.
If all goes right for the Hofstra softball team, it’ll find itself competing for a CAA trophy in Harrisonburg, Virginia, in the second week of May.