Asked how he passed his time during the offseason, MLB all-time great Rogers Hornsby famously replied, “I’ll tell you what I do: I stare out the window and wait for spring.”
Softball pitcher Katie Orona ’18, whose 2.23 ERA was good enough for second in the Ivy League last year, would agree. And now as the season approaches, she anticipates good things from a Brown team newly infused with young talent and returns from injuries.
“I’m pretty optimistic for this season,” she said. “We’ll be able to compete at a much higher level than we did last year.”
In 2015, the team finished with a disappointing record — 13-21 overall and 7-13 in Ivy play. But this year, all necessary factors are in place for a much improved season, Orona said.
“Last year, we didn’t have as many people on the bench in comparison to this year,” she added. “As of right now, we have a lot of different people that can play a lot of different positions. We’re really versatile.”
The incoming class will certainly play an important role: The current roster lists five first-years, four of whom will compete for starting spots, Orona said. Pitcher Meghan Wimmer ’19, who recorded a 0.80 ERA as a high school senior, was expected to contribute as well before a torn ACL put a premature end to her season.
“We have Sofia Venegas ’19, who’s looking to take second base, and then we have Annie Scarangella ’19, who’s a really good power hitter who plays the corners,” she said. “Cat Seitz ’19 is a freshman coming in who can catch and play the corners, and her hitting is going to be really key. Ashli Lotz ’19 is our freshman outfielder — she’s really fast in the outfield and competing for a spot right now.”
Positions all over the field are up for grabs, and the starting catcher’s spot may see the most interesting position battle of all, Orona said. Coming out of Poway High School near San Diego, Seitz will compete with co-captain Julia Schoenewald ’17 and Emily Springfield ’18 for the job. Neither has acquitted themselves particularly well offensively — Springfield batted .260 last year, and Schoenewald is a career .206 hitter. Seitz, who in 2015 earned first-team All-California Interscholastic Federation honors, will enter her rookie season with an immediate chance to make an impact.
Scarangella, hailing from Tuscon, Arizona, should also contribute immediately. She is the only listed third baseman on the roster, but is also able to play first base. Scarangella hit .522, .500 and .436 in her last three years of high school and twice earned first-team All-Arizona honors.
“Our offense is what’s going to be our key factor,” Orona said. “With this class coming in, they’re really going to contribute to that.”
Only one area is almost certainly not up for grabs: the left side of the infield. Anchored by third baseman Christina Andrews ’17 — who batted .288 in 2014 before missing most of the 2015 season due to injury — and co-captain Janet Leung ’16 at shortstop — who led the Bears in 2015 with a .396 batting average and a .974 OPS — Bruno’s infield is in capable hands.
The first-years “coming in (are) really going to contribute, as far as competing with people who had positions last year and making sure that whoever gets the position really did earn it,” she said.
The team has been practicing for weeks in preparation for its season, which begins Friday in South Carolina with a doubleheader against Winthrop and Canisius. Practices have proceeded on schedule and without any hiccups, in stark contrast to last year when snow delayed the start of training, Orona said.
“It’s super cold, but we’ll go on the turf and do a full defense,” she said. “We’ve gotten more turf time than we did last year.”
Once games begin, there will be little respite: The team plays a packed schedule of doubleheaders, featuring six or eight games a week. But the team is up to the challenge, Orona said.
“The mindset — as far as both the coaching staff and the players go — is much more intense,” she said. “The impetus is really on doing the little things right: taking practice seriously and getting the most out of the time that we have. We know that we have the opportunity to do something special this year.”