By Danielle Williams
Grinnell’s softball team has struggled in recent years due to low student participation, but this year’s team is hoping to change that. With their first game of the season coming up next Saturday, the small team of thirteen, including their student-assistant coach, is hard at work, hoping to start the season off with a win against Westminster College. They are optimistic about the season.
“We open up [this season] against Westminster College, who we’ve opened up against in the past… We’ve also played them in our home tournament that we host in April; we beat them the last time we played them, which is always good heading into a game,” said head coach Amanda Reckamp, who is entering into her third season coaching softball at Grinnell.
She has high expectations of the team as they approach the beginning of their season.
“I have high hopes… [Westminster has] a really good pitcher, but I think that we’ve prepared our bats well enough that we’re going to be able to put some runs on the board against them,” Reckamp said. “We’ve definitely decreased our talent gap in terms of our top to our bottom; we have a ton of more speed… I feel like in our freshmen that we’ve added, we have players with enough years of experience behind them—we’re going to be able to put more runs on the board, which is going to be huge for us.”
Although the softball team’s record might sound disappointing to many, the team’s lack of wins actually seems to reduce the factor of pressure on the team members and they’ve learned to see that as a bit of an advantage.
“We’ve only won two games in two years,” Reckamp said. “Just having another year of experience is an advantage.”
“Grinnell Softball doesn’t have a very good track record, [but] our coach has a lot of faith in us. She keeps telling us that we have nothing to lose. We only have room for improvement and I think that’s our greatest advantage,” said Jeanette Au ’16. “We are the underdogs—people don’t expect us to win and I think that’s our advantage. Because we have nothing to lose, we can go out there as hard as we can and it will still be a job well done.”
Summer Wilke ’15, a team captain, has been around long enough to recognize changes taking effect on the team since last year.
“[Compared to the team last year,] we’re a little bit bigger and I think we also have a little bit more versatility as well as more speed…that’s going to be one of our biggest assets: the speed on the team,” Wilke said.
Wilke and Au recognize the amount of effort the team has been putting in to prepare for the season.
“The commitment is great. The work that was put in during the off-season is really promising,” Wilke said.
“I’m learning so much. … It’s a lot more mental than it seems, because you have only a split-second to react and think of what play to do, where the ball has to be thrown, if you’re on offense [then] how to run; it’s such a mental game,” Au said.
Even with the huge strides the team has made in skill, they are even more proud of their team unity.
“I think that once we get more reps and more time on the field, our chemistry will really kick in because our off-field chemistry is awesome,” Au said.
“The chemistry on the team is really great,” Wilke said. “We’re a small group so we’re really tight-knit and it’s common to describe us as family… Everyone gets along really well.”
Reckamp attributes their improvement to this chemistry that they share and she thanks the team captains for that.
“Christina Colver [’13] and Summer Wilke have done a great job of leading the team on and off the field,” Reckamp said. “[The team] is a great bunch of ladies who offer anything and everything in terms of their personalities, [which is] what drives them academically and athletically. And they’re going to make some changes in terms of the win-loss column.”
“I think we’ll be getting a better start than we had last year and I think that all we need to do is just believe in ourselves and realize that we do have potential and that we can be a great team,” Wilke said. “We just have to work towards it to achieve the success that we are capable of.”