Southern Regional Softball Squad Gaining Confidence Under New Coach

May 09, 2018
Photo by: David Biggy

This time last year, the Southern Regional softball team was such that taking a 2-1 lead into the sixth inning had an element of mystery to it. And often, the Rams found ways to lose those types of games rather than drop the hammer on their opponents.

On May 3, it was clear how far the Rams had come from last year. Rather than find a way to lose, they scored an additional run in the bottom of the sixth and came away with a 3-1 victory over Shore Conference Class A South foe Toms River South, culminating the last of a three-game win streak.

“This game was huge,” said first-year head coach Jamie Bernaldo. “We were up and down through the first month, so stringing together a few wins is a big deal for our team. They needed this, for their confidence. This is a team, now, that has tasted winning, and I don’t think they’re going to settle.”

The last time the Rams had a multiple-game winning streak was when they started last season 4-0, before the wheels fell off the wagon and they ended up 6-13. But times have changed for Southern, and whether the players settle into being a team just going out there to play and have fun isn’t even an issue anymore.

“We’re a different team now. Our attitudes have changed. We have more confidence,” said Colleen Camburn after she delivered an RBI double to right-center field to score pinch-runner Rachel Pharo with the go-ahead run in the bottom of the fourth. She later dropped a sacrifice bunt that led to the Rams’ insurance run in the sixth.

“When the season started, our coach put expectations on us and at first it was a little stressful. But we’ve worked hard, and now that we’ve won a lot of games, we can see why she put those expectations on us. We’re not out there to just play games. We’re out there to win.”

Sure, all the players who returned from last year’s team – most of the starting crew along with several who played back-up roles – are a bit more mature and have a bit more experience on the field. But Bernaldo, along with new assistant Ed Truitt, has instilled a different kind of drive in the Rams this season, and the result is a 10-7 record and a spot in the Shore Conference Tournament.

“It’s definitely more about our belief in ourselves,” said junior pitcher Tatiyana Ford, who struck out eight and didn’t walk a batter against the Indians. “We have good players, but our coaches believe in us and keep challenging us to get better. The environment within the dugout is upbeat and positive. We’re excited to play the game, and now we know we can keep winning.”

The day after knocking off Toms River South, the Rams took on a solid Manchester squad and dropped a 5-4 decision – their first loss in a couple of weeks – but they rebounded on May 7 with a 5-1 victory over another solid crew, Brick Township.

In Monday’s SCT clincher, Southern went up 2-0 in the bottom of the second, added two runs in the fourth and another in the sixth to take a 5-0 advantage into the seventh. Ford went 2-for-4 with a double in the batter’s box while firing another fine game from the circle, scattering six hits and fanning five. Pharo also had two hits and an RBI.

“They’re starting to understand me and I’m understanding them, and I knew that would take some time,” Bernaldo said. “But one big thing is how hard we practice, how hard we work. It doesn’t seem that they were used to that, but they’ve adjusted and responded well to it. And the proof is in how well they’ve been playing lately.

“Softball is fun, and it’s supposed to be fun, but it’s more fun when you’re winning. I came here to help these girls win softball games. I don’t expect them to lose. Sure, we can learn from our losses, but we can learn from our wins as well, and they’re starting to figure that out.”

— David Biggy

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