The Miami RedHawks are excited to be playing softball this year after last year’s season was cut short by two months.
Still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the season looks a little different this year. Practices have to happen in small groups, and schedules are constantly changing.
Miami has also faced another big change this season: a new coach.
Kirin Kumar was hired as the head coach in August after being an assistant coach at Virginia Tech for the past two years.
“The girls are awesome,” Kumar said. “They’ve gone through a pandemic, a coaching change, everything, and they have not lost stride.”
Kumar has focused not only on the physical training, but also the mental side of things. The team has spent a lot of time working with the sports psychologist on top of their practices and strength training.
“When you get to this level, everyone’s talented,” Kumar said. “The difference is who can mentally handle the rigors of a Division I softball schedule and academics and put it all together.”
Coming into the season, the team set up a “Leadership Committee.” Senior pitcher Courtney Vierstra, senior outfielder Morgan Lott, junior catcher Riley Coyne and senior outfielder Jada Dotson were elected by their teammates to be a part of this committee.
The leadership committee’s job is to be a leader on and off the field. Kumar said they know when to be a teammate and when to be a friend.
Before the season, the ’Hawks were ranked second in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) preseason poll by the coaches.
“Preseason polls don’t mean too much to me. You’ve got to go do it on the field,” Kumar said. “For [the girls], it’s definitely motivation, but for me, we just have to go out there and play our game.”
Vierstra was the team’s leading pitcher last season with a 2.22 earned run average (ERA) while pitching 78.2 innings. Junior Brianna Pratt, who had a 3.15 ERA with 46.2 innings pitched, and senior Taylor Rathe, who had a 3.15 ERA with 13.1 innings pitched, will both be returning this season as well.
Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter
Last season’s leading hitter, Lott, will also be returning this season. Last season, she earned a .375 batting average with 72 at-bats.
Freshman outfielder Karlee Juarez will also be a big help to the team this season. She has started the season out with a .414 batting average with 29 at-bats.
The team has played nine games so far this season, with a record of 4-5.
Kumar says the RedHawks’ schedule began with some very tough opponents.
“They did really well, and I think they’re taking that experience for the season and knowing that they can hang with anyone on the field.”
In a two-game series against University of Tennessee, the RedHawks lost the first game, 7-3, but came back with a 2-0 win in the second game, Tennessee’s only loss so far this season.
“They were hungry for it,” Kumar said. “Knowing that we can beat those teams is really satisfying.”