CLERMONT, Fla.-Sophomore Sarah Sorensen hadn't pitched since high school but when Coast Guard needed arms to help out a rotation she volunteered. So far things have worked out pretty well for her and the team as a whole. In the first of a two-part series we will take a look at the conversion of a pair of outfielders (junior Kelsey Gray the other) to becoming viable members of the Coast Guard softball pitching rotation.
"Being able to finally get outside, throwing to opposing batters, it's a lot of fun to see how far Sarah has come," says pitching coach Bill Mullins. "She's gone from a point where she almost looked nervous and intimidated to throw to any live batters in the fall to where she is now, which is looking like a confident, collegiate pitcher."
Sorensen based her decision to return to pitching on the fact that Sammy Yuknat – a starter a season ago – suffered an injury which will likely keep her out for the season. "It meant our team would only have one pitcher, which put us in a bit of a tight spot," says Sorensen who thought it could be both fun and challenging to resume her pitching career but mostly, "it would help the team."
"I've worked with some great pitchers, including a Division III All-American and a number of Division I kids," starts coach Mullins, "and Sarah is so eager to learn and to get better day in and day out. That's what has made coaching this season so much more fun than in years' past. The attitude and effort given by these her are infectious and it looks to have begun to spread to her teammates who seem to really enjoy playing behind her."
The transition back to the circle hasn't come without its own set of challenges, however. For Sorensen the toughest part has been building confidence and proving to herself that she could actually perform at the college level, saying, "When I first started working in fall ball and again over Winter Break I thought it was just a fluke and that I was getting lucky."
While she admits that she has a lot to learn and work on Sorensen thinks her work during the off-season is paying off, "I feel more confident in myself that I did earlier on this year," and the results seem to show it. After making a pair of appearances on Opening Day, Sorensen's hard work was rewarded as she was named NEWMAC Softball Pitcher of the Week. Sorensen has now seen 17.1 innings over four appearances registering a 2-1 record and posting a NEWMAC-best 0.00 ERA.
So far the success has been measured in experience and growth while the on-field results have been mixed for Gray and Sorensen. "You expect young pitchers to struggle a bit their first time out, but Sarah has seen incredible growth from the fall to the spring and now through a handful of games. There have been times when she has been in a rhythm out there in the circle and now it's just a matter of taking that next step and putting it all together for an entire seven innings," claims an optimistic Mullins.
"We, the coaching staff, aren't looking for the next Hayley Feindel," says Mullins, "we're just looking for a couple of solid kids to fill out the pitching rotation. Sarah has come to realize this and after having placed some tough expectations on herself prior to the season she's accepted that being her best and improving each time out are all that we can ask of her and so far she's been terrific."
While the on-field numbers are great for the pair the most rewarding part to each of them is how they've been able to help the team. For Sorensen, part of the reward has been making her family proud. "My dad has helped me a lot throughout my entire softball career," starts Sorensen, "he drove me to many, many pitching lessons an hour away from where I live, where he'd catch for me or stand out in the rain and cold or even snow during practice." Ultimately Sorensen has had someone to share her success with making the fruits of her labor even sweeter, "being able to get out on the mound these past couple of games and pitch well has been so rewarding because I've been able to share that sense of accomplishment with my dad."
Making the transition a little easier for the pair is that both her and Gray came in from the outfield to pitch this season. According to Sorensen, "we've learned a lot from each other and become good friends in the process."
Coast Guard currently stands at 4-2 on the season and will return to action on Friday, March 14th when they take on RPI (9:00 am) and St. Lawrence (11:00 am) at the NTC Spring Games in Clermont, Fla.