The Renegades Are Stepping Up to the Plate
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For student athletes across the city, the year away from PSAL has been a year away from the best part of school: inside jokes with teammates, satisfying wins against school rivals, and stress relief after a long day at school. When Stuyvesant announced the sports that would be offered in this year’s spring PSAL season, the Renegades, Stuyvesant’s varsity girls’ softball team, were ecstatic to see themselves on the list. “You never realize how much you love something until it is taken away,” Coach Vincent Miller said.
Unlike fall season sports, the Renegades have not played together for two years as the COVID-19 pandemic ended their season before it even began in the spring of 2020. As a result, the team composition from 2019 to 2021 is entirely different, and the players have had to adjust to new roles and positions. Junior Paige Wolfing, for example, began pitching for the first time in her softball career. “Being a pitcher can be the most isolating position on the field […] It’s a very mental position, and I find it hard sometimes to just stay calm and cool,” she said in an e-mail interview. Despite this daunting challenge, in her career start, Wolfing threw a no-hitter game against Richard Green HS of Teaching that led the Renegades to their first win.
While Coach Miller and returning players feared a lack of interest among underclassmen, they were pleasantly surprised to see 20 people at tryouts. Each player had varying skill levels. “A big challenge we are facing in game situations is uncertainty and unconfidence […] This results in errors like throwing the ball to the wrong place or panicking and making a bad throw to first base because they don’t feel confident that they know what they are doing,” senior and co-captain Isabel Leka said. Still, the upperclassmen players are proud of how each new player has stepped up to the plate and practiced hard over the past two months.
Due to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic and the lower division competition, many of the Renegades’ scheduled games have been either postponed or forfeited. However, the Renegades were able to play two regular season games, defeating their opponents, Richard Green HS of Teaching and HS Economics & Finance, by 15 and 10 points, respectively. The rest of the Renegades’ games were either postponed or forfeited by opposing teams for various unique reasons, such as overheating, lack of permit, or too few players. The Renegades also had a scrimmage against Beacon High School, which they lost 12-1 due to Beacon’s steals and solid pitching. “Teaching [new players] the way the game is played and working on fielding and hitting when we’ve been playing teams that are below our division level [have] been difficult,” senior and co-captain Angelina Mustafa said. Since the Renegades will play AA division teams like Beacon next season, it’s crucial that they improve their batting skills against better pitchers to make the playoffs.
The Renegades have been navigating the pandemic’s challenges within and outside of practice. For the first few weeks of the season, PSAL restrictions prohibited teams from using any equipment, and the team had trouble running through drills and game time scenarios. Over time, the Renegades slowly grew more comfortable with each other, and the younger players started reaching out to their more experienced teammates for help. “I feel like we created a welcoming community on the team, and people are not afraid to ask for help or for tips with their game,” Wolfing said.
Above all, this season has been more about community than winning. “As a senior who didn’t get much else of her senior year, being able to go to practice every day, see my teammates, and have a generally normal season has been so refreshing,” Mustafa said. For incoming freshmen, this season has been a chance to understand the lively extracurricular and athletic environment at Stuyvesant, and for seniors, it has been one final goodbye. PSAL is not hosting softball playoffs this year, so the players want to end their regular season strong and build their confidence. Excited to grow their bond both on and off the field, the Renegades are looking forward to playing against better, more competitive teams next year that will test their developing skills in fielding and hitting.