Deerfield softball program on the rise

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The Deerfield softball team is improving with each game, and that trend should continue.

Deerfield’s starting lineup features five sophomores. Third baseman Natalie Behling, shortstop Calista Kerstein and left fielder Melissa Dolins started last year; pitcher Kate Bulzoni and Carly Frisone have moved into the lineup this season.

Through Monday, the Warriors were 8-8.

“All of these kids are team players who work hard at improving every day,” Deerfield coach Susan Johnson said. “They’re humble about the strengths they bring to our team though each one of them plays a key role in our success.”

Behling said that this year’s senior class is a good model for the sophomores.

“They’re the backbone of the team,” she said. “They keep us confident and motivated.”

Behling started her sophomore season in style by hitting a home run in her first game.

“It’s difficult for pitchers to throw around her,” Johnson said. “She can rip the inside pitch down the line and take the outside pitch to right. And if you [throw it] in her zone, she will take it downtown.”

Behling said the experience she gained on the varsity last year helped her approach this season more like a veteran.

“I felt some pressure as a freshman, and that affected my hitting,” she said. “I worked over the summer on watching the ball all the way in from the pitcher and that helped my confidence.”

Kerstein is one of the Warriors’ fastest players and she uses her athleticism to turn potential singles into outs at shortstop.

“She has really grown into a leadership role in our infield,” Johnson said. “Her range continues to increase and she has a wicked arm.”

As the No. 2 hitter, Dolins gets on base consistently by slapping and hitting.

“She can bunt but she can also swing away and drive a double in the gap,” Johnson said. “She’s one of our best outfielders because she tracks the ball so well.”

Frisone already has four over-the-fence home runs for the Warriors, but Johnson noted that she is more than just a hitter.

“She has a strong arm and has been involved in double plays when opponents are trying to take an extra base,” Johnson said. “She has made her infield look good and saved many plays with her signature scoop.”

Frisone said being called up to the varsity for a few games last year helped speed her development.

“It was a confidence booster and just incredibly valuable,” she said.

Bulzoni has pitched in more than half of Deerfield’s games while also lending a sold bat.

“She changes speeds to keep hitters off guard and the movement on her pitches is great,” Johnson said.

Added Bulzoni, “I try to confuse hitters by throwing a lot of spin pitches.”

All five sophomores are excited about making their mark on the Deerfield softball program.

“It’s exciting that we’re able to contribute as young players,” Frisone said. “By the time we’re seniors we’ll have been on varsity for a long time and we’re hoping to set a foundation for the Deerfield softball program.”

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