Working out the kinks was key for the softball team.
After a 10-0 loss to Hanover dropped the Whitman-Hanson Regional High softball team to 1-5 on the season, first-year skipper Jordan McDermott realized changes had to be made. So, she held a lengthy team meeting and made some tweaks.
“We extended our practice hours, we made sure that we were hitting more and made sure we were doing more defensive and offensive drills,” she explained.
It worked. The young Panthers, who started just one senior, swept the following week, posting wins over Quincy (11-6), Hingham (8-3) and Pembroke (6-4).
“I think in the beginning of the season we were still trying to work out some of the kinks,” McDermott said. “We had tryouts and then two weeks later we had our first game, so I don’t think we were getting enough reps. We didn’t really know exactly what to practice because we weren’t in a game yet.”
But the Panthers’ tough schedule and youth caught up to them. The Panthers, whose seven best hitters were freshmen, sophomores and juniors and lone two pitchers were a freshman and sophomore, dropped their next six en route to a 7-13 campaign.
“I think overall the season went the way we wanted it to in terms of team building a program and setting small goals for us,” McDermott said. “They all had a purpose on that field. The whole theme of the season was that you have a purpose and you have quite confidence.”
Two players who exhibited that quite confidence were freshmen Annie Cook and Erin Burke. A league all-star at third base, Cook led the team in steals (seven), was second in hits (21), tied for third in runs (11) and fourth in average (.344) and on-base percentage (.397). Burke pitched to the tune of a 3.36 ERA over 50 innings of work, while smacking a pair of doubles at the plate.
“Their poise makes them special,” McDermott explained. “They’re very calm, very simple, very hardworking athletes. They’re very poised. They know a lot about the game. They’re both confident but not cocky and hardworking kids.”
At second base, junior Victoria Ryan was the Panthers’ other Patriot League All-Star. She paced the team in average (.390), hits (23), home runs (two) and was third in on-base percentage (.419).
“She is a confident player, she’s not cocky,” McDermott said. “She flew under the radar, but she was still known for making great plays or getting those hits to get us back in the game. She is confident in the box that she’s going to get that job done.”
Sophomore Emily McDonald was the team’s MVP, after scoring a team-high 13 runs, leading the club with a .448 on-base percentage and ranking second in average at .373. She had 12 hits, scored nine runs and had five RBIs in Panthers wins.
“The thing about Emily is that she always has a very not-going-to-give-up attitude,” McDermott explained. “She is always willing to grow as a player. She always has a smile on her face. On the field, she has a great eye. She is very quick to a lot of the balls, too. A lot of the times I had no idea how she was able to catch that. She is one of the most scrappy players I’ve coached.”
Flanking McDonald to her left in the outfield was Sophia Molinari. The junior hit .347 with 17 hits and seven RBIs, but it was her defense that set her apart.
“Plymouth South was probably the game where she finally realized how to read the batter and how to track the ball better off the bat,” McDermott explained. “In the beginning of the season I was the one positioning the outfielder, and then one day we were at Plymouth South and one of their batters had a swing and Sophia changed the whole outfield without me having to do it.”
McDermott said there is a silver lining of being infused with so much youth, especially for her.
“I think the benefit is that I am able to build the program with the younger kids and make it my team, my group of girls,” she said. “It really started with Annie and Erin and hopefully I can get some more freshmen and sophomores.”