NEW BRITAIN - The New Britain softball team has a new pitcher and her name is Joseleen Rivera.
And it didn’t take long for Rivera to establish herself either.
The sophomore turned in a strong performance in the Hurricanes’ season-opening win against Newington on Thursday. Rivera threw a complete game, giving up just two runs (one earned) to help New Britain beat the Indians for the first time in 12 tries. She also struck out seven batters, walked three and gave up five hits on the afternoon.
“She’s radiant at mound, she doesn’t skip a beat,” Hurricanes head coach Joel Simmone said of Rivera. “[Thursday] was amazing. I said before the game to our athletic director, Len Cortro, ‘If she keeps Newington’s leadoff hitter off base, Cyan Gonzalez, we’re going to win the game.’ She kept her off and we won the game.”
Gonzalez went 0-for-4.
While Rivera had little trouble going through the Indians’ lineup most innings, that still didn’t mean she wasn’t a little nervous to start with.
“[Thursday] I got in my head a little,” Rivera said. “I was just trying to think ‘you can’t miss a pitch, you can’t miss a spot and you have to get [the ball over the plate].’ And while on the mound, I definitely talk to myself a lot. I just keep myself going, I keep my head up because if I’m down, the rest of my team is down and I affect everyone else.”
Rivera has been playing softball in the New Britain area since she was 7 years old when she started with New Britain Little League. But it was older sister, and in particular, watching her that got Rivera involved with the sport.
“She used to play for [Goodwin Tech] so I would always go to her games and would watch her play,” Rivera said. “She would definitely help me and she was the reason I started pitching. I saw how big of an impact she made every single game that she pitched, and I just told myself ‘wow I want to be like that,’ and here I am years later.”
Outside of pitching, Rivera brings other roles to the team. She’s the Hurricanes’ leadoff hitter and also plays the outfield. Against Newington, Rivera scored a run after being hit by a pitch to start off the second inning.
“She’s just very knowledgeable with the game,” Simmone said. “I mean, it’s nice to have someone come into the program that’s played travel ball, so when I tell her what to do she just does it. And it’s big her being a sophomore. We have three more years and if she continues at this pace, she’ll be All-State this year through next year.”
This might be Rivera’s first varsity season with the Hurricanes, but it is also her first year at New Britain High School. During her freshman year, she attended a magnet school nearby.
“When I found out she was going to a magnet school last year I was devastated,” Simmone said. “If I had her last year with another girl that transferred with last year’s team - wow - things could have gone differently. But when I heard she was coming back I was very, very excited and happy. I’m just really looking forward to this.”
Simmone has high expectations for the underclassman, and is expecting her to pitch at least 15 out of the Hurricanes’ 20 games and help lead the program to some postseason success.
“She’ll get us to the point where we can qualify for the tournament and even challenge for the conference which we have never done,” Simmone said. “Maybe we can even get a home game for the tournament for once. She’s going be a leader. We’re going to lose a lot of seniors this year so next year we’re going to have to rebuild and get the younger girls in there and just keep it going.”
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860) 801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org