Ups and Downs Part of a Growth Process for Young Barnegat Softball Squad

Apr 25, 2018
Photo by: David Biggy Junior shortstop Molly McEneaney makes a running grab of a short fly ball in shallow center field during the Bengals’ 12-0 loss to Jackson Liberty on April 23.

Michael Palmieri knows the remainder of this season will bring with it plenty of lessons for his young Barnegat softball team. Learning them will be an important factor in how the team develops for next year.

“I thought we’d have more than two wins at this point of the season, but we’re building toward the future,” the head coach said following Monday’s 12-0 loss to Jackson Liberty, for which the Bengals (2-11) were without starting pitcher Adrianna Romano, who was too sick to play after the freshman tossed a solid game Saturday.

“In 2010, we had a team of mostly freshmen, and they had five wins that season. The next season, they had 12 wins, and the following season they had 18. So, that’s what I see with this group. We’re totally looking ahead. The girls have to believe in the process.”

At times so far this season, the process has looked ugly – the Bengals committing bunches of errors and defensively taking themselves out of games – while at other times it looked to be working like a charm.

Consider their game against Point Pleasant Borough on April 17, when the Bengals scored 11 runs and midway through the contest seemed to be on their way toward winning their third game of the season. Several errors later in the game not only allowed the Panthers back in it, but provided them enough runs to win the game, 12-11.

Two days later, Lacey thumped Barnegat, 18-0. But on April 21, the Bengals went to Raritan and played a tremendous game against the Rockets, taking a 1-0 lead in the first inning and keeping the contest close until the final out. The Bengals had the tying run on second in the seventh but couldn’t push the runner across and lost, 2-1. Romano threw a four-hitter with seven strikeouts. The problem in that contest was a lack of offense – the Bengals mustered just three hits.

“We really played great defense on Saturday, but we just couldn’t get that other run,” said junior shortstop Molly McEneaney, the most experienced varsity player in the Bengals’ lineup, after starting as a freshman two years ago. “We’re having our ups and downs right now, but we’re definitely getting better. We have a lot of underclassmen on the field, and a lot of times I think they get nervous or don’t have confidence in themselves. We have a lot of talent on the field, so it’s just a matter of time before all of them start playing with more consistency.”

On Monday, the Lions scored once in the first and four in the second to take a 5-0 lead. With Liberty up 9-0 in the bottom of the third, junior right fielder Kiersten Breyta – celebrating her birthday – swatted a leadoff single to right-center field in the bottom of the third, but a double play and flyout during the next two at-bats ended the inning.

Liberty added a run to take a 10-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth, and again the Bengals went down in order. With one more at-bat to score at least twice, the Bengals managed to put a runner on first with two outs in the fifth, when sophomore second baseman Priscilla Pitiak legged out an infield single, but the game ended with a popup to second base.

“Our girls are working hard. They’re capable and determined, but I’m sure they’re frustrated because they’re going through the ups and downs,” Palmieri said. “You can’t teach maturity. That only comes with time and experience. Ultimately, everything that happens this season helps them for the future.”

After graduating a lot of seniors following last season, Palmieri said, McEneaney has been an asset to the squad because she’s not only a reliable hitter and fielder, but she’s also a leader on the field and in the dugout.

“I like my role as the leader,” McEneaney said. “I want to be a role model for the rest of the girls, and I love having to teach them what it means to be part of this team and to take pride in what we do. But there’s a little pressure. I feel like I can’t mess up. It’s OK, though, because it makes me better, too. We play good competition in our division, and that’s a good thing as well. Together, we’re all going to keep getting better.”

— David Biggy

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