The SUNY New Paltz softball team is barreling towards the SUNYAC championships after a 16-game win streak, taking over as the current No. 1 seed in the division. After a weekend of sweeping doubleheaders in both Plattsburgh and Potsdam on April 27 and 28, respectively, the Hawks anticipate an eventful weekend coming up to defend their standing.
If the team remains the top seed in the division as they currently do, New Paltz will host the softball SUNYAC championships for the first time in program history. With two more doubleheaders to play on May 5 and 6 at Buffalo and Fredonia, respectively, the Hawks will pull out all the stops to get their title, which they seem beyond determined to do.
“We’re really trying to end in first because then we can host the SUNYACs, which has never happened before for us,” said Juliet Bernstein, fourth-year catcher and outfielder. It will also be the first time in history to end the season as the first seed.
It took a lot for the team to get where they are today. Consistency and discipline are key to forming the best team they can, especially on the defensive end. “On top of practicing we have an extra setting of hitting, so we work with our assistant coach on hitting all split up throughout the week,” said Bernstein. “On top of that, most of the team will go and hit in our batting cage, which is in the AWC. A lot of times we’ll go before practice or after practice or before games, even, just to get the extra hitting in.”
Although the team runs like a well-oiled machine now, the beginning of the season was not as promising. “The beginning of our season was a little rough. We lost a few games that we really should have won, and it was a rocky start. we still didn’t have a set defense. We were still trying to figure out who fits where and so on,” said Bernstein. “Luckily we figured it out right before our conference games really started. And so when we got to conference games, we had a more set defense and we had an offense that was starting to come together.”
“We weren’t hitting the way that we could have in the beginning and once we started getting that hitting together, the runs started coming in. Once you have a consistent defense that will make those regular plays and then those extra plays, that’s really where it comes together,” said Bernstein. “Once we started hitting well, those runs and those wins just started coming together. Our defense has been really locked in. Our pitching has also been really, really consistent, which has been really helpful.”
For the graduating seniors, this is a bittersweet goodbye to a team that has been there for the ups and downs of their college careers. “Being a transfer, I was coming on to a team and a community that was already like everybody knew each other. I was coming from a team that was toxic. Coming to a new team, I was obviously nervous,” said Bernstein. “Everybody was just so open and welcoming. I just, right away, felt so welcomed onto the team. And I made so many friends right away. I didn’t feel like an outsider.”
“The last season I had … I was dealing with a lot but they really kind of helped me and pulled me up and just taught me so much about who I am when I faced adversity and just overcoming those obstacles,” Bernstein added. “It’s a bittersweet ending because I’ve been playing the sport for 10-plus years. This will be the last season I really play at this competitive level which is upsetting, but it also gets tiring.”
The season is drawing to a close, but the team is excited about what these next couple of weeks will hold. “This year has been one of the most exciting seasons yet in New Paltz Softball. I feel like we all are having fun, supporting each other and playing our hearts out,” said Sydney Waldon, second-year pitcher. “We are playing like a team, we’ve got a crazy defense and offense right behind to support us. We’re super excited to try to bring the SUNYAC champion title home!”
The SUNYAC Championships will be held on May 11 through 14, the location depending on which team ends as the top seed in the division. Keep up to date with the Hawks’ standings on the official New Paltz Athletics website.