BERLIN - Berlin softball head coach Jason Pires had a heavy tan as he walked off the field at Sage Park on Friday afternoon, and it certainly didn’t come from the recent cool and overcast weather in Central Connecticut.
No, Pires’ tan came from Florida, where he and the rest of the Redcoats had just returned from what some might see as a vacation, but what the team considered a valuable bonding experience and an opportunity to improve critical aspects of its game.
The most notable area addressed in the Sunshine State was hitting, and back in Connecticut on Friday, Berlin pounded out 20 hits, including four home runs, to earn a crucial first victory of the season.
“We were able to play a bunch of scrimmages down there and we emphasized hitting,” Pires said. “We emphasized all three phases of the game … but hitting most of all. We saw the results of that [Friday].”
The team’s trip may not be a critical turning point in a season that never felt off the rails, even after losing the opening two games in heartbreaking fashion. The Redcoats instead took the week in the sun as simply an opportunity to improve.
“We were 0-2, but we played two really good teams and easily could have been 2-0,” Pires said. “We were in both games. We were winning in the seventh and gave it up [on Opening Day], and we had the tying run on base in the seventh inning of the second game and couldn’t get the big hit.”
The big hit wasn’t hard to come by on Friday, thanks to plenty of extra hitting practice in Florida, where the Berlin hitters seem to have rediscovered their power stroke.
“Going 0-2, it’s like ‘when is it going to end?’” Center fielder Lindsay Walsh said after bopping a home run on Friday. “We finally got something good from all of us.”
Like Pires, Walsh didn’t see the team’s spring getaway as a defining moment to salvage a rough start to the season, but it certainly served a valuable purpose.
“It might seem like it was a vacation, but it brought us all together,” Walsh said. “It was good for us.”
Aside from hitting, Pires wanted to get the team focused again, an issue he had noticed since preseason scrimmages on the home front, when the Redcoats seemed to take a few innings to dial in at the plate and in the field.
A similar narrative unfolded on Friday, when Berlin fell behind 3-2 after three innings to an inferior Platt team, but Pires saw his group break out of its chronic early funk much sooner than usual, which is a step in the right direction.
“We’ve been having difficulty getting focused and being ready to go for first pitch,” Pires said. “We’ve seen it since the preseason. It takes us longer, for whatever reason. It’s taking us a little while to get our focus going. We’re a young team, but there’s no excuse. We’re better than that.”
Initial focus will be the next improvement on Berlin’s checklist. A week in Florida seemed to awaken the bats, and Berlin hopes a looming matchup with a solid Bristol Eastern squad will help cure any lingering lack of focus when that game gets underway on Monday.
The game against the Lancers has been marked on the team’s calendar since before it packed its bags for Florida, and after breaking into the win column upon returning from their trip, the Redcoats believe they’re on the right track.
“I think [Friday] was really big for us,” Walsh said. “We have that really big game coming up and we want to have a win under our belt to build up some confidence. We want to come out strong in that game and not start out flat like we have been, so this was really good for us.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org