Youth and inexperience are the names of the game for the Newark High softball program. Out of the 22 players on the roster, only four have any prior experience playing the sport.
“We are teaching the game of softball from a basic level of fundamentals,” ninth-year head coach Brian Corey explained.
The squad is loaded with underclassmen, as nine freshman and five sophomores make up more than half the roster. To make the situation even more challenging, five players who were projected to start this season didn’t return for a variety of reasons and another starter is injured and missed the first half of the season.
“[The situation] has made for a lot of young players having to step up,” Corey said.
Four former Yellowjackets – Eden Rose, Aubrey Smith, Caroline Stewart and Kailee Beam – have returned as volunteer assistant coaches to help teach the inexperienced but eager-to-learn players the game of softball.
“I always give [my former players] the opportunity to come back and help coach,” he said. “The Newark and team mindset is ‘Team Family.’”
Beam is a 2017 graduate who completed Del-Tech’s phlebotomist program and yet still finds time to give back to her alma mater.
“I volunteer because I love the game and I love being able to help others in reaching their goals and doing what they love,” Beam explained. “This year, a lot of girls came into the season never holding a bat or throwing a ball before, and I just want to help them learn everything they possibly can and become as good as they can. We all started somewhere and this is where they’re starting. I love being a part of their journey and I cannot wait to see more improvement in each and everyone one of them this season and future seasons.”
Beam also believes the value of her contributions extends beyond the playing field.
“With a high school team, I feel it’s important to have a former student be there to support, someone who knows what it’s like to have to juggle school work, working and softball all at once,” she said. “The girls need someone who can relate and help them get through everything on or off the field.”
Another volunteer coach who helps out isn’t a Newark High alum, but as a former four-year varsity player at Ardrey Kell High School (N.C.), Sydney DiMartino has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share.
“I was inspired to start helping out with the team because I felt that my time was unfinished with softball but if I couldn’t play any longer, I wanted to find another way to stay involved,” DiMartino, a junior marketing major at the University of Delaware, said. “Softball was such a huge part of my life for so many years and as I’ve gotten older I’ve seen how the life lessons I’ve learned playing the game has absolutely changed my life for the better as a young adult now.”
Newark hopes the second half of the season gets better in the win column. The Yellowjackets’ lone win to date came when junior Charlotte Rose tossed a one-hitter in a 10-0 win over McKean. Rose struck out the first six batters she faced and finished with 12 for the game. McKean’s lone hit didn’t come until there were two outs in the fourth inning.
“Charlotte gives us a fighting chance when playing equal-caliber teams,” Corey said of his team ace.
Shannon Eberle is Rose’s batterymate and the team’s best hitter. Unfortunately for Newark, Eberle suffered an ankle injury during the preseason and didn’t appear in a game until Tuesday against A.I. duPont.
“It has been a long road to recovery but I’m almost there,” Eberle said prior to her first game back. “I think I’m most looking forward to guiding and helping out the new players. Since I sprained my ankle, I haven’t been able to really contribute to the team other than cheering at games and supporting my teammates. But now that I’m back on the field, I am able to actually get up and help the new players by leading by example.”
Despite falling to A.I. 16-6, Eberle was happy to be back in game action.
“It felt great,” she said. “It was really good to be back. I missed being on the field with my girls. There were definitely times where I could’ve done better, but all I can do is keep working at it. Now that I’m back up and running, I’m ready to power through and finish the 2019 softball season strong.”
Newark’s next game is April 30 against St. Mark’s.