The term “defense wins championships” is usually reserved for football. But it can also derail a softball season if a team gives their opponent extra outs in the field.
Baldwin’s softball team, the four-time defending conference champions, is off to an uncharacteristic 4-5 start and coach Tom Llewellyn cited the defense as one of the main culprits. The Lady Bruins had four errors in a 9-3 loss to Massapequa on March 29 and three more 13-3 setback at East Meadow a week later that were instrumental during the team’s four-game losing streak.
The trend continued in last Saturday’s 9-0 loss at Calhoun, where the Baldwin skipper said that the first six or seven runs allowed resulted from miscues in the field. Some of his starters are playing in unfamiliar positions this season, Llewellyn explained, but he remains surprised that errors have continued to plague the team.
“We haven’t played our best defensively, most importantly,” he said. “Once our defense gets a little more experience, you’re going to see a lot less runs put up against us. Their skills are there, but the one play has been hurting us lately.”
Offensively, the top half of the batting order has consistently produced and given the Lady Bruins a chance to win most of their games. Leadoff hitter Katelyn Borello has gotten on base consistently and senior pitcher Yaya Spencer is batting around .600 in the second slot with two home runs.
Senior center fielder Alex Burns has blasted six home runs already this season, one more than last year, including three in an 18-6 rout of Great Neck South in the season opener. She is also batting near .600 with a team-leading 23 RBIs.
“I think one of the things that has changed the most is her patience,” Llewellyn said of Burns. “She’s getting hits when it counts. The key is getting runners on base for her.”
Left fielder Nicolette Manzella singled in the winning run with two out in the bottom of the seventh inning to give Baldwin its most recent win, 6-5 over Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK on April 12. Fellow junior Juliet Bernstein scored the winning run and added a home run and triple in that game.
Spencer has produced all four wins on the mound for Baldwin this spring and with an earned-run average around 2.70. Entering last Saturday’s game against Calhoun, she had 50 strikeouts in 36 innings.
“A lot of the runs she’s given up this year have been unearned,” Llewellyn said while continuing to talk about one of the main themes of the season. “We just need to play better defense for her.”
The team’s next three games are against crossover opponents before ending the season with four straight conference games. Llewellyn is confident that his team will start to turn it around soon and compete for another conference title.
“We still haven’t played our best yet, which is good,” he said. “We want to peak at the end of the season. It really comes down to being all in.”