HINSDALE — There is a trick to developing a young team, and Hinsdale Central softball coach Lee Maciejewski is finding that trick a little bit harder to turn this season.
Eight of the 11 players on the roster are freshmen and sophomores. Most of their experience comes from playing girls close to their own age in summer ball so there is learning curve to playing high school varsity ball. The inconsistent weather this spring has had a hand in the development process.
“It’s good for them to come in and get accustomed to the speed of the game and the pitching,” Maciejewski said of his young players. “On the other hand, they benefit from playing games as well as practicing, and if you need to practice something the opportunities to do that are limited because there just haven’t been enough practices, and that has hurt us.
“For instance, if you’re having trouble bunting you’d go outside and everybody would get 10 or 15 bunts against live pitching. But when the only live pitching you see is in a game, only one or two kids are able to bunt in that situation.”
The Red Devils went nine days between games before falling 4-0 to Oak Park-River Forest on Tuesday. If things go according to plan, they will play nine games over eight days next week, starting with Saturday’s doubleheader against Willowbrook and culminating at the Romeoville tournament next Friday and Saturday.
Maciejewski praised the efforts of Hinsdale Central’s grounds crew for keeping the field in playable condition even though the weather has kept the Red Devils from actually playing or even using the field for practice. As a result, there has been plenty indoor hitting work, and Central’s young pitchers have been able to refine their technique, even if they haven’t been able to show it regularly in games.
“Our pitching coach Al Coppersmith is doing a great job bringing our young pitchers along,” Maciejewski said. “We have a saying with our pitchers that we don’t expect them to win the game for us but we do expect them to not lose the game.”
Sophomore Annemarie Tracey, normally a shortstop and outfielder, and freshman Courtney Berlin, a pitcher in travel ball, have both added spin to their pitches and are getting better at hitting spots.
“If anybody has watched us, our pitchers’ ability to spin the ball, hit the corners and pitch the ball where they’re asked to have continued to get better,” Maciejewski said. “I couldn’t be more happy with the way our pitchers have developed. We’re not giving up on this season because this team is going to be very successful, but I think the next two or three seasons are going to be very rosy with Annie and Courtney with us.”