Winning three-straight MASCAC Championships is great, but how about a fourth?
That’s what the Framingham State Softball team is aiming for this year.
“To win the MASCAC again, everyone is going to have to be a leader no matter what age they are or position they play. Everyone on our team has an important role,” sophomore standout Laela Pepin said. “With everyone giving their best effort and fulfilling their role, we definitely could find ourselves winning a MASCAC championship.”
Last season, the Rams won the MASCAC regular season title and made it through the playoffs to the final day where they played Fitchburg State and Bridgewater State for a shot at the MASCAC championship.
They won each of their first two games of the day and then played against Bridgewater for the title.
The game finished with Framingham forcing the matchup to end in only the fifth inning as they won 8-0 and collected their third trophy in a row.
“Winning the MASCAC three times in a row has been such an exciting experience,” senior captain Kaylea Sherman said. “Last year we played three games in one day to win the ship and it was a day I probably won’t ever forget.”
A standout performance from the game came from starting ace Kelsi Gunarathne who tossed a shutout.
This season, however, the Rams will be without Gunarathne as she graduated last year.
So, the question that needs to be asked is, “Who takes the mound now?”
“We have two freshmen, Shannon Ward and Ally Moran, and a sophomore Laela Pepin who did not pitch because of an injury,” Coach Larry Miller said. “They will see a bulk of the innings and I’m excited to see what they are going to do.”
Pepin hit for a .343 average last season and stood out as a freshman due to her speed and skill as a utility player.
Now with the prospect of stepping onto the mound this season, she will see more chances than before to impress.
“Heading into my sophomore year my mentality is very much similar to last year, except now I’m coming in with more experience. I want to do everything I did last year and more. Having a great freshman year is a start, but all athletes know progression in your skills and achievements is the most important thing,” Pepin said.
She added, “I’ve been counting down the days until our first game, and that feeling when I finally step on the field with the team is really going to be something else. At that moment, the excitement is going to take over and you will probably find me bouncing all around the field.”
With Pepin and others moving into their sophomore year, there are, of course, numerous freshmen that will start at the same road they did.
And with new faces comes adjusting to a new level of play and having to build new relationships with teammates.
“We have a young group overall, but through the first couple of weeks of practice, they look focused and getting ready to play in college at a high level,” Miller said. “We know we are going to have a lot of options which is exciting as a coach.”
“We have 11 freshmen on our team, so it’s been an adjustment,” Sherman said. “But it’s been fun this year so far, and we’re getting so excited to start our season.”
The 2020 season for Framingham will begin on March 15, and the Rams are getting ready for it.
Whether it’s in the gym doing deadlifts, practicing where the basketball and volleyball teams play, or hitting the books to stay on top of academics, they’re doing what they can to be prepared.
“Getting ready for the season has been going pretty well. Like most teams we are limited due to the weather and have to practice in the gym most days, however that hasn’t stopped our grind,” Pepin said. “Each practice I’ve seen my teammates get better and stronger, and all our hard work is going to show off once the first pitch of the season is thrown.”
All the preparation and practice the team has put into the offseason is building up to a shot at their fourth-straight MASCAC title.
With talented freshmen, seasoned players, and captains Sherman, Kirsten Dick and Mycala Moody, the reigning champs seem set to defend their crown and add another plaque to the Athletic Center’s trophy case.
“We want to compete in everything we do,” Miller said. “I am very confident this group can achieve our goals.”