The University of Maine women’s softball team has struggled early on this season. Currently, the Black Bears sit last in the America East Conference. The team has only won two of their first 19 games this season, and they are currently on a 10 game losing streak just under the halfway point of the season.
UMaine’s first-year head coach Jordan Fitzpatrick is no stranger to the Black Bear team as she was a former player on the team. Before she was hired as the head coach, she served as the team’s assistant coach for five years.
“Having played here … I have gone through many of the things our team goes through on a daily basis helps make me more relatable,” Fitzpatrick said. “I can understand more from their perspective because I’ve actually been there in their shoes.”
Their offense has been struggling to score throughout this season, getting shut out in three games. While they have been able to hit the ball consistently, they have struggled to get their runners to home plate. First-year designated hitter Gabby Papushka is a strong addition to the team. Her first season at the plate has been impressive so far, and she has been leading the team with the highest OPS at .856. She is also tied for the most RBIs with 11 and home runs with three.
Along with Papushka, third-year first baseman Izzy Niebles has performed well with an OPS of .839 and is tied for RBIs with Papushka at 11 as well as home runs with three. She has also tallied up 15 hits and eight runs. Fourth-year infielder Kelby Drews has been solid with an OPS of .809, 16 hits, six RBIs and two home runs.
This season, the Black Bears have continued to struggle with pitching. Coming into this season, the pitching staff were unproven, and it is showing. Last season, ace Kyleigh O’Donnell had more innings pitched than everyone on the team with 113 and two-thirds innings pitched. Now that their strongest pitcher has graduated, it’s up to the new players to step up to the plate.
Currently, fourth-year Gabbie Siciliano has the best ERA on the team with 5.97 and a 1.8 WHIP. She has a 1-5 record so far this spring. First-year pitcher Alexandra Gruitch has played in the most games but she has struggled the most. So far, she has a 10.32 ERA and a 3.00 WHIP, along with a 0-10 record. While the pitching has not been that good, part of the blame has to go to the defense as well. They’ve committed 47 errors, resulting in 42 unearned runs.
“We just need to find some consistency,” Fitzpatrick said. “We have been playing four to five innings of good softball each game, and then we have one inning where we just kind of implode on ourselves. We have to eliminate that one inning.”