Veteran leadership, chemistry key to moving on from softball’s lost season

By the way that the St. Edward’s softball team’s season has unfolded, it is safe to assume that things didn’t go as planned. The team, with an accumulated a record of 5-37, has had what many would consider to be a down year, especially considering the team’s record 19-33 from last season.

But through this unfortunate losing stretch, the program has had several bright spots that have helped them push through the tail end of the season. Sophomore infielder Karolina Rodriguez has produced eight home runs so far this season, all while hitting at a .342 batting average.

“It’s just more of the idea of staying focused through all of my at-bats and make every pitch count,” said Rodriguez when asked about her approach on home-run hitting.

Rodriguez’s home run success is not something new to her, having collected 3 of them in her first year on the team last season. Reminiscing on what it was like to log in her first career home run for St. Edward’s, Rodriguez said, “I was shook. I swear, I didn’t even know it was going over ‘til I was rounding second base. I was like, ‘Oh, it’s over. Why am I still running?’ It was just a really good feeling.”

But even through these season-highs, it is hard to overlook the lows that the team has collectively experienced.

“I think the hardest part [of going through this] is just staying true to the plan we have,” Rodriguez said. “After losing so many games, you just have to keep your head up high and continue focusing on working hard and trying the best you can.”

Though consistently losing can have a major impact on a team’s attitude moving forward, Rodriguez says that the team still tries its hardest and plays with the utmost emotion heading into every game.

“Our team energy has been pretty great. We’re still very energetic. We’re still going out there and playing with all we have. We’re still playing like one – as a whole team. I still really like the energy, despite the season,” said Rodriguez.

The consistently positive energy has been big for the team this year. Not only has it helped them play together, but has brought them closer and improved their chemistry.

“This year, I feel like all of us have a stronger connection and we play better as a team. … The energy is just so much better. Everyone just clicks at a certain type of way…” Rodriguez said. “We are all just closer to one another. We actually go hang out, we spend all our time with each other, we practice. Everyone’s just one this year.”

This bond has become Rodriguez’ favorite part of being a member of this program because it has led to tight-knit relationships.

“It’s the girls. I love everyone on my team, everyone is so much fun. They’re fun to play with, they’re always there to pick you up when you’re down,” Rodriguez said. “It’s just a really good environment to be in.”

Rodriguez credits her confident mindset and her supportive environment as key factors for her improvement as a collegiate athlete.

“Last year, as a freshman, it was just more of the nerves that got to me more than anything,” Rodriguez said. “I think this year, I really don’t have any nerves going up [to bat], it’s more of just being in ‘attack-mode’ rather than a defensive mode. That’s what really has helped me. … They push me to do better and be the best I could be.” 

Along with these personal improvements, Rodriguez says that there have been notable team improvements that have helped the team’s overall development. 

“Our defense has gotten a lot better. We rarely have errors now and I think that’s really impressive. … This year, our defense has been impeccable — infield and outfield both. Pitching has done a great job,” Rodriguez said.

Though this long season will be coming to an end soon, Rodriguez is already preparing for next season by looking for ways that she can improve her skill set and make a bigger impact on the program. “I’m going to try and stay more consistent rather than just being on-and-off some games. My goal is to be there every single game and play every single pitch to the best of my ability.”

Though it is many months away, the excitement for next year’s fresh season offers the team the chance to fulfill new goals and opportunities while allowing the team to establish a clear identity and expectations. Rodriguez is especially thrilled to see the upperclassmen get their chance to lead the team and guide it in a stronger direction.

“The most exciting thing is a lot of our juniors right now are going to be seniors next year and I think that is just going to hype us up even more, knowing this is their last year,” Rodriguez said. “The seniors are just going to take the steam and control and dominate with it.”