Benjamin Franklin softball building foundation with young core
11 months ago Jason P. Skoda 0
Benjamin Franklin softball coach Jon Malgradi doesn’t spend a whole lot of time mulling over the lineup card.
It isn’t so much that he has a set lineup for the Chargers; it’s more like he has a lineup.
As in Ben Franklin, in its third year of playing at the AIA level, only has 10 players on the roster this season after 14 last year and 13 in 2015-16.
The options are slim, but the energy and effort have been enough to keep the Chargers competitive and on pace to win the most games since moving up to the AIA level.
“They’ve come out literally from the first day of tryouts with a smile and wanting to ask questions, wanting to understand why that call is that call, why did we do this or that,” Malgradi said. “I cannot express people how proud I am of this group. We have a very diverse spectrum of softball IQ and background.”
Benjamin Franklin is 5-9 on the season and 1-5 in the 3A Central Region with seven freshmen and three sophomores. About half of the girls have played the game for a few years and others are playing it for the first time on the varsity level.
It has led to some difficult innings, gloves being held in the wrong way on a groundball or not knowing what to do when the ball is put in play, etc.
But it hasn’t affected their attitude and approach every day. The players know they are in this together regardless of what happens each pitch, inning and game.
“It’s really just working together and having a lot energy,” first baseman Katie Rea said. “We are helping each other out because we have girls that have never played and girls with a lot of experience. We will hold each other accountable.
“We know the person our left and our right have our back.”
It is setting a solid foundation that can help the Chargers build a program after having several underclassmen from last year’s team not on the team this year.
They’ve had to make due with the 10 that show up every day, put on the blue, gold and white uniform and play the game as best as they can.
It may not be instinctual yet as it is with players who have played for years; even the routine play can be difficult, but until they day comes the players keep striving to improve each day.
“They are always seeking to get better,” Malgradi said, “and to me if you can bottle kids with that good energy on a regular and they want to ask questions it is going to be a good outcome.”
Pitcher Liana Elias, shortstop Madison Canez, catcher Emily Kuefner and Rea are leading the way while others like Madison Vertin, Mania Carpenter, Ellie Standage are providing support as the Chargers are trying to get better each day.
The outcome has been good, thanks to an offense hitting around .350 and beating a 4A team (Moon Valley) for the first time, as last year’s team had only three wins and the initial team had seven.
It’s not unreasonable to think this young team can end the season by registering the most wins in the program’s short history.
“We’ve had bigger and older rosters and didn’t fare as well,” Malgradi said. “It’s been fun to see what a bunch of young ones have been able to come out and do. There is definitely an opportunity to progress forward.”