By John Orrell, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – A new look is unfolding and unfolding well so far with a new coach leading the Shrewsbury High School (SHS) varsity softball team into the 2017 campaign.
Jamie Millett brings extensive coaching experience at the collegiate level and a fresh start to the program that went 15-7 a year ago with a season-ending loss to St. Peter-Marian High School in Division 1 semifinals. Despite a number of players lost to graduation, the team returns a collective mixture of veteran and young players that should lead the team into what will be sure to be tough Midland A competition again this year.
“This year is going to be new for everybody,” explained Millett. “We’re definitely doing a lot of cultural changes this year. Getting the kids to buy in is critical and we’ve had nothing but extremely good buy-in this year. The kids seem really excited about the new changes and that’s made things easier for me.
“I like the kids’ energy,” she added. “They’re really excited for the season ahead. With a new coach coming in, I could have gotten a lot of resistance and I didn’t. I was greeted with a whole new and fresh look at things. It’s been a lot of fun so far. The kids all seem to be on the same page. We emphasize team success over individual and that’s what we’re looking to see this year.”
One of the mantras brought to the Colonial program by Millett is “win the day,” an emphasis on high expectations for things at hand and not dwelling on what may or may not be ahead, a concept that the team has clearly adopted.
“We expect everyone to do their job and to learn their role on the team. We have high expectations so we expect everyone to be performing their best all the time,” said senior co-captain Taylor Dunphy. “We always talk about the expression that coach talks about called ‘winning the day.’ That means to focus on the day, don’t look too far ahead, win the day and then move on.”
“I feel like we just need to stay focused on the goal right in front of us,” echoed junior co-captain Molly O’Neil. “We don’t want to be caught up too much in the future. We need to take it one game at a time and get stronger and build upon that.”
The 2017 squad will be led by Dunphy and O’Neil who bring talent and strong leadership on and off the diamond. Millett is more than pleased with the efforts put in by her captains. Dunphy will see ample mound time as will O’Neil. Both will hold down first-base and outfield positions, respectively, when not in the circle.
The remainder of the roster consists of seniors Mackenzie Huard (1B/C), Meg Power (C) and Ally Tocman (3B); juniors Julia Grocer (INF/OF), Karli DeSouza (INF/DH) and Jameson McCue (OF); sophomores Gianna Simone (OF/INF), Samantha Hallice (OF) and Livi Digirolamo (INF) along with freshmen Sasha Brownstein (INF/C), Gracie O’Hara (OF/C) and Riley MacCausland (INF). MacCausland, the starting goaltender for the varsity ice hockey team, brings a sense of on-ice toughness that will serve the team well.
“We’ve had meetings and talked about goal-setting,” said Millett. “We have to have a good offense. Defense has to be strong, Pitching has to be strong. We have to work on the little things. It’s going to take all these kids to be doing their part, doing their role to be successful. We talk about winning the day which means take care of today, get better today and we’ll be fine but all the pieces have to come together.”
Getting off to a fast start in a perennially challenging Midland A League will be critical, say coach and players. Captains are keenly aware that wins in April are just as important as wins in June, but won’t step away from the one-game-at-a time mentality.
“Getting a fast start is kind of crucial for us because we graduated a lot of seniors from last year,” said O’Neil. “We have some freshmen on the team and with a new coach I think it’s important to set the tone and start off strong. As captains, we try to set an example on and off the field with good sportsmanship, good behavior and working hard at all times.”
“We’re a really close team,” Dunphy added. “We have a lot of new players and it feels like we’ve bonded well.”