Approximately 1,320 miles from the snow covered campus of Keene State College, the KSC softball team opened their season, playing ten games in Clermont, Fla. The Owls came back with a 4-6 record. But four wins was not all the team picked up during the week-long trip.
The young squad, featuring 13 underclassmen, gained some much needed experience in Florida.
KSC sophomore Samantha Nitso said, “The trip showed us what our capabilities are as a team. And what we need to work on and that’s what the Florida trip is for.”
Nitso added, “We are a very young team and we got a lot of experience in Florida.”
On their first day in Florida, the team hit the outdoor practice field for the first time this season. The Owls have practiced in the gym while they wait for the snow to clear off their home field located at the Owl Athletic Complex. Senior captain Nicole Dupuis said it was nice to finally get outside.
Dupuis said, “Our first practice day was a little scary because it was the first time we got to work on pop flies and cut offs. But it was nice to be in the sun.”
Dupuis hit .242 with 33 at bats, knocking in five RBIs over ten games. Although she said she was not happy with her hitting performance, Dupuis said she found other ways to contribute to the team, specifically on the defensive side of the ball.
Offensively, the Owls certainly show some promise. KSC senior and first year player, Meryl Ragaini hit .424, on eight hits, nine runs, two home runs and seven RBIs during the ten game stretch. The Owls also got a lot of offensive production from freshman Stephanie Long. Long hit .444, driving in 5 RBIs.
Long also scored seven runs as the leadoff hitter for the squad. Samantha Nitso said, “We really needed a strong leadoff hitter after Haley [Chandler] left; she was our leadoff hitter last year. Steph is getting on base for the rest of us which is good.”
Stephanie Long said that the Florida trip certainly helped boost the confidence of the six new freshmen. “I think getting the first couple games out of the way is so important. You’re so nervous. But once you get out there you realize that this is what you’ve been doing since you were little,” Long added.
A productive freshman class could be what the Owls will need in order to succeed this season.
Productivity was exactly what the team got from their freshman ace pitcher, Mariah Crisp. Crisp pitched in five games, notching three wins and two losses. She threw 37.2 innings, striking out 49 batters and picking up a 1.67 earned run average.
Crisp said, “I feel a lot more confident now that I pitched five games and I am getting the feel for the college game.” She added, “It made me a lot stronger I think. I just got thrown into the wolves. But I surprised myself. I didn’t expect to have as much success as I did.”
Fellow freshman Stephanie Long said, “Mariah definitely held her own in Florida.”
One of Crisp’s strongest performances included a win over Simmons College in which she threw 11 strikeouts and five walks on March 12.
Stephanie Long and Mariah Crisp’s performances on the Florida Spring Break trip earned them their first Little East Conference honors of the season. Crisp was named the LEC “Pitcher of the Week” while Long earned the “Rookie of the Week” honor.
Long said, “I was happy with my performance. I thought the environment was great. The seniors kept all the freshmen loose so that we were able to play as best as we could.”
Long added, “I think it’s good that freshmen are able to come in and do well because then the upperclassmen don’t have to do all the work.”
On top of playing good softball, the team also got to enjoy the Fla. sunshine while bonding with their teammates. Captain Nicole Dupuis said that for two days, the players were without cell phones in order to encourage them to bond with their teammates. Dupuis said, “Having so many young players, we need to bond off the field as well as on the field.”
There was no shortage of team bonding during their week-long trip. Crisp said, “Florida made our team come together just in those seven days. We all got to bond and get to know each other on a personal level. And that’s obviously really important when you are playing on the field together.”
The Lady Owls are still waiting for the snow to clear off their home field. But the trip to Florida went to show that they have certainly already started to heat up.
Michelle Berthiaume can be contacted at