Low on varsity playing experience entering the year, Matt Finn sounds patient about his Ellicottville varsity softball team.
Maybe that patience paid off before weather and spring break gave the team a few weeks off from game action. After an 0-3 start, the Eagles won three of their last four games entering spring break. Pine Valley edged ECS 8-7 on Monday, dropping the Eagles to 3-5.
In describing his team entering the season, Finn said they’re not necessarily young, but “inexperienced on the field.”
“I only have a couple of returning starters, my pitcher is a sophomore so that's something that makes you nervous going into the season,” Finn said. “But some positional players like Cece Maybee, the catcher, she played for us last year, Linnea's been with us a few years now, Makenna Smith started for us last year, and Cam Earley. So we had some solid players, it was just filling in the other spots like second base and the outfield is all brand new. As far as initial stuff, it was game experience, it was going to depend on how quickly we get used to that.”
Smith plays shortstop, Jimerson first base, Maybee catcher and Earley moved from third base to center field.
Jimerson and Maybee are both seniors, while Smith, a returning first-team league all-star, is a junior. Finn considers them all leaders for his team.
“Linnea's really stepped up talking to the kids and everything else,” Finn said. “Makenna's doing a decent job of leading, Cece's doing OK. It's just our game experience is so young. We relied on Evie Cortez, who graduated last year, (for leadership). She had been on the team for so many years and pitched for us and played shortstop. “
Among the team’s new starters is sophomore pitcher Courtney Sexton.
“She pitched two or three games for us last year, but this is her first full season,” Finn noted. “She seems to be doing alright so far. It's a lot different than modified and JV. She's working on her changeup. She's developed that pretty good. Again, she's getting used to the game experience. There's a couple times where it's young nerves out there, where we're young, the play's at home and she goes to first and things like that. I think it's just young nerves, that's all.”
The team has seven seniors: Malorie Chamberlain (2B), Paisly Farnum (OF), Rachel Frascella (2B), Linnea Limerson, Jess Jimerson (OF), Maybee and Cam Phinney (C). Allison Calarco (OF), Earley, Evelyn Nuzzo (3B), Smith (SS), Megan Stuve (OF) and Sammi Van Wicklin (1B) are all juniors. The team has two sophomores, Sexton and Jenna Hadley (OF), and one freshman, Jocelyn Wyatt (3B).
In CCAA East II, the Eagles compete with Frewsburg, North Collins, Randolph, Pine Valley and Franklinville and are 1-1 so far. For sectionals, they’ll play in the Section 6 Class C-2 bracket.
Finn hopes to see batting pick up after the team returns from spring break. The Eagles have scored 12 runs twice this year, both victories, and seven in their other win. But in their first four losses, they scored four or fewer each time.
“We scrimmaged Fillmore early in the season, a couple weeks ago,” he said. “After the scrimmage, the coach came up to us and said, 'Holy cow, your girls hit the ball very, very hard.' I feel like we got into games and we weren't hitting it as well, as consistently. So I'm looking forward to getting that back where we're just on the ball and seeing it better and everything else. I'm hoping our hitting will improve. I think defensively we've cleaned things up a bit, but now if we can just get the bats going we'll be fine. It'll be tough because with 10 days off it's hard to get right back into it.”
Defense, meanwhile has led to the Eagles’ recent victories.
“Our defense has really kicked it in, a lot less mental errors and a lot, lot less physical errors,” Finn said. “We're just making the routine plays we're supposed to be making and really focused on the ball that's coming to us better.”