BY KEN MORSE
There is much to be said about camaraderie. It brings out the best in a team and the University of Saint Joseph softball clan is a prime example. The Blue Jays compiled a 22-18 mark this spring, going 14-6 on their new home turf field.
Head coach Jim McKinnon, along with assistant coaches Kate Dubois and (pitching coach) Patti Sciglimpaglia, are looking forward to having the Blue Jays compete for a GNAC title, the first since 2019 and only the third in program history.
Sometimes a little change can facilitate a turn around in the success of a team. That change took place when sophomore transfer Alyssa Roberts joined the team. The former Naugatuck All-State and All-NVL pitcher made an immediate impact, earning GNAC player of the week award three times during the season.
“I did one semester at AIC in Springfield playing fall ball, but it just didn’t feel like the right fit for me,” said Roberts. “When I came here there are so many girls from the NVL it just felt like home. I’m a real hometown kind of girl and nothing against AIC, but it just didn’t feel like home, and Saint Joseph does.”
It takes a lot of courage to stand up and change the direction you are heading in, but one thing is for sure. If you are not happy in a situation you need to make that change, life is too short not to.
Roberts immediately thrived in her new environment and that also took place in the classroom as a nursing major. She graduated Naugatuck in the top five percent of her class, so academically she was always up for the challenge, but the stakes are much higher in college.
“What’s nice about this situation is a lot of my teammates are in the nursing program so we are there helping one another out, not only on the field but in the classroom as well,” said Roberts. “My roommate Brianna (Catalani) is a nursing major as well and we help each other out. It’s a tough nursing program, they hold you to high standards, but once again it’s like a team effort.”
There are always the thoughts that fill your mind, like can I really compete at this level playing college softball? The competition level from high school to college can be overwhelming at times.
Roberts was able to settle into her new surroundings right out of the gate when she was named the GNAC player of the week on March 27 after striking out 12 batters in 14 innings, winning both of her starts and putting up a 0.50 ERA.
If that didn’t open some eyes and quiet some of those doubts, Roberts did it again the following week, batting .778 with 9 RBIs. By then the Blue Jays were on a roll, the nerves had settled and Roberts was at home in her new surroundings.
“I will admit I was a bit nervous going in,” added Roberts. “It’s been a while since I faced that kind of competition, but having so many girls on the team that I played with in travel ball and in the NVL was so helpful.
“We all knew each other and it made it feel so much more comfortable and we were all there for one another. I will admit I really settled down after being awarded the player of the week award. It was then I felt I belonged here playing college ball.”
Sophomores Brianna Catalani (Watertown) and Emily Beyer (Woodland) helped Roberts to settle in, and freshmen Kaitlyn Ouellette (Wolcott), Paige Fekete (Watertown) and McKenzie Fairfax (Thomaston) gave the team a real hometown feel.
Roberts went on to earn NFCA All-Region I honors, only the third player in Saint Joseph history to do so, along with first team All-GNAC accolades after posting a league-best .505 batting average.
Roberts had a team-leading 56 hits and 31 RBIs to go with 12 doubles, 20 runs scored and one home run. In the pitchers’ circle she had 11 complete games, two shutouts, a 9-7 record, 88 strikeouts and a 3.79 ERA.
Ouellette (.313 average and 6-6 record) was named to the GNAC All-Rookie team. Fairfax (.351) was third team All-GNAC and junior Grace DiMinno made the GNAC All Sportsmanship team.
“We have a lot of players coming back,” said Roberts. “We have some unfinished business to take care of. There is so much talent on this team. We really want to make a statement in the GNAC.
“I’m playing with the Watertown Rapids U-23 team this summer. We play doubleheaders on Sundays. I’m working with my pitching coach Patti (Sciglimpaglia). She is a former Saint Joseph pitcher, was all-region and won 52 games in her career. She is helping me to hit my spots and making sure my movement pitches are working, a lot of fine tuning.”
Roberts continued: “The defense behind me this season was just fantastic. I had the most unbelievable center fielder, Isabel Milardo, behind me this year and it made all the difference. We are all excited about next season and taking care of business.”
BY KEN MORSE