By BOB YORK —
The Deerfield Academy girls softball team turned the corner this spring by turning the tables–on some of its opponents.
Over the past four years, the Big Green has been involved in a number of games in which the “Mercy Rule” has been used. The rule, according to the Amateur Softball Association of America, is invoked when one team owns a presumably insurmountable lead over another team and once that margin has been attained, the game is called. In the New England Prep School Athletic Council, that margin is deemed to be 15 runs or more after five inning of play.
“I’d say we probably averaged about five or six Mercy Rules a season during my first four years here,” said Becca Sherburne, the coach of Big Green girls softball. Unfortunately from Sherburne’s viewpoint, however, the Mercy Rule was used for the wrong reason–it was her team that was facing that insurmountable lead.
This spring, though, there was no more need for mercy, at least not on Deerfield’s behalf. There were two games this season that ended via the Mercy Rule, “but this season, the ruling was used because we had what was considered the insurmountable lead … not the other team.”
“It definitely instilled a great deal of confidence in us,” said Caroline Baldwin (14) on thumping Stoneleigh Burnham, 30-7 and Hotchkiss (15-0) plus being able to go the distance with each and every opponent on its schedule this season. “We played well as a team this season and although we didn’t have a great season as far as wins and losses are concerned (4-8), we all feel we were much more of a competitive team this season.
“Plus,” added Baldwin, a co-captain who held down the first base chores this spring, with just four members of this year’s team graduating, I feel as though this program is on an upswing.”
To an outsider, four wins certainly don’t appear to be anything worth basing an upswing on, but Baldwin is no outsider. She has been playing Big Green softball for the past four years and when you chalk up just 14 wins over that span, three each as a freshman and sophomore and four as a junior, four wins your senior year can sure feel like an upswing–especially when half of them end with the Mercy Rule being invoked.
Kayla O’Connor (14), Deerfield’s other co-captain this season, wrapped up her career in fine fashion by earning a number of postseason accolades. Prior to the awards, the Big Green second baseman posted team leading figures in both batting average (.430) and on base percentage (640).
When it was time for the awards, O’Connor, who will be playing hockey at Trinity College next season, earned berths on both the New England Prep School Athletic Council All-Star Team as well as the Western New England Class A Softball League All-Star Team. Closer to home, O’Connor was presented with the Deerfield Softball Cup.
“We set a modest goal for ourselves of winning five games this season,” said Sherburne. Unfortunately, a pair of losses and a cancelled game during the final week of the season kept the Big Green from improving on its record of a year ago. There’s plenty of experience returning to the Deerfield roster, however, so any goals set for the 2015 campaign shouldn’t be so modest.
Despite the graduation of Baldwin and O’Connor, the infield is pretty well preserved with the return of Taylor Morash (16) behind the plate, while the left side of the infield is intact with Amelia Sawyers (15) at shortstop while Shelby Scarborough (17) and Lindsay Warger (17) handled the third base chores.
Two of the three faces seen tracking down fly balls in Deerfield’s outfield this past season will be at Sherburne’s disposal next spring as well. That means Shai Lineberry (17) returns to leftfield, while Emmy Latham (15) will be stationed in centerfield once again. The right field chores will be up for grabs, however, as Maryanne Iodice (14) has departed.
“I think the biggest key to our being more competitive this season was our pitching,” said O’Connor. “It kept us in every game this season and best of all, it’s a young staff … it should help this team move up as it moves along.”
The mound staff’s youth consists of Scarborough and Warger, who made their varsity debuts this season as freshmen. The staff’s experience, meanwhile, consisted of Steph Collins (14), “who is the first post graduate we’ve had in our softball program in quite some time,” said Sherburne.
“Although we used all three pitchers pretty regularly, I’d say Steph probably had the most starts this season, but that was due mainly to her experience,” added Sherburne of her ace, who will be pitching for Division III Sewanee College in Sewanee, Tenn., next spring. “As far as speed, control and the number of different pitches they were able to consistently get over the plate is concerned, I’d say all three were pretty equal.”