Redemption arc on Softball’s mind
By: Vinnie Christiano III
“I remember my last game I played before our season got cut [in 2020]: it was heart-wrenching. And even last year it wasn’t the same. Losing in the MAAC Championship was one of the most frustrating things, so coming back into the season I want it more than anything, and I’m ready — and I think we all are,” said redshirt senior Emily Nicosia, who will be suiting up for her last start in a Golden Griffin uniform this spring. She was adamant that this year’s group brings a lot of energy.
This weekend, the Canisius Golden Griffin softball team begins their non-conference schedule in South Carolina competing in the USC Upstate Tournament. The team will spend the next 10 days living in a hotel in the Carolinas, with 13 games slated between now and Feb. 27.
With 50 total games scheduled between now and the start of the MAAC Championships, this year marks the first time the softball program can embark on a full season since 2019. Head coach Kim Griffin is beginning her eighth year at the helm of this team, which finished last year as the MAAC Runner-Up, and she says she’s looking forward to having a true preseason again.
“With preseason there’s a lot more flexibility, there’s not as much pressure right at the beginning,” said Griffin. “I’m really looking forward to that part of our season to get us ready to go into MAACs.”
The team lost five seniors among other undergraduate student athletes from last year’s roster, but gained back the personnel in the form of 11 freshmen, which is tied for third most in program history. One standout addition is Saige Alfaro out of Chula Vista, Calif., who will likely fill the vacancy at second base after last year’s Canisius Female Athlete of the Year — Kara Paradowski — graduated.
Alongside additions to the defense and the batting order, the coaching staff has also bolstered an already impressive personnel grouping in the circle. This year’s team begins with a six-girl pitching staff that includes two freshmen; Toria Kover and Kate Wiggins. The two join the likes of Nicosia, Alexis Churchill, Shealyn Ollison and Megan Giese, who all return to the lineup this season.
The expanded staff will be crucial to the long-term success of the team, with the longer season than last year. Additionally, with Giese not available to the team in the late stages of their MAAC Championship tournament run, Griffin emphasized the benefit of having fresh arms. “It’s a lot of games. So we will have to use our full pitching staff, and we will have to mix things up to stay fresh.”
Other MAAC teams will likely put a lot of effort into scouting this rotation, as Nicosia, Churchill and Giese combined for 97% of the team’s innings last year, while achieving a 2.55 ERA and striking out 190 batters over 231 innings.
When asked if there was any interest in revenge after losing to Manhattan in last year’s MAAC Championship, both Griffin and Nicosia emphasized the need to keep things “focused on our process” and keep things business as usual.
“I think if we only focus on getting to the MAAC Championship, we’re going to lose ourselves a little bit, so I want to stay committed and with the process right now,” said Nicosia, “but I will say, … a little bit of redemption is what I want.”
The Golden Griffins kick off their season officially on Friday at 5 p.m. at South Carolina State in Spartanburg.