Towards the end of a practice session last week, softball pitcher Katie Kudlacik ‘22 was approached by teammates and coaches, giving congratulations. Unbeknownst to her at the time, she had just secured the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Week title.
Although the past couple weeks and months have been challenging for many teams, the Fairfield University softball team has gotten back onto a schedule- not a normal one, but a schedule nonetheless- that has allowed them to step back onto the field.
The return to play was definitely a shock for Kudlacik, whose sophomore season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last season, the team barely got to work with the new first-year players, meaning this year, the first-years and sophomores are just finally getting acclimated to the collegiate softball experience.
For Kudlacik, the experience has been fruitful so far. In her first season, she came on with the expectation of throwing a perfect rise ball, which she was not entirely comfortable with.
“All of a sudden, the rise ball just clicked,” Kudlacik stated.
Kudlacik owes her Pitcher of the Week title to her performances against Iona College on March 30 and April 3. “I got 23 strikeouts using my rise ball for the majority of them, and it finally worked,” she said. As a pitcher, she does not go up to bat, outfield or anything like that; throwing strikes is her sole focus.
However, she does not want to let this honor make her underperform in the next series of games. “I’m grateful for it, but it doesn’t phase me either. I don’t want to take it and be overly cocky in the next game,” Kudlacik explained.
This season for the Stags has been confusing; out of the team’s 14 games played so far, only one was played at the properly scheduled time. Due to some universities taking a pause from athletics due to a quicker-than-normal spread of COVID-19, new games would appear on their schedule at short notice, which muddies up the entire process of travelling, studying film, and practicing.
However, Kudlacik hopes to stick to the normal schedule for the rest of the season, as she is extremely excited for the team’s four-game stint against Monmouth University on May first and May second. “It’d be great just to go out and play them again, because they are great hitters and I just want to see if my best stuff can beat their best stuff,” Kudlacik said.
Although Kudlacik is a junior, she still plans to play softball with Fairfield beyond her undergraduate graduation. Last season’s abrupt end led the National Collegiate Athletic Association to grant players an extra year of eligibility, an offer Kudlacik plans to take advantage of.
In terms of the future, Kudlacik has a few ideas as to what she would like to focus on. “Maybe I’ll end up coaching softball a little bit, or being an instructor for pitching somewhere in the future,” Kudlacik said.
The team recently took Alumni Softball Field to play four games against Siena College over the span of two days. Out of the games, the Saints and the Stags each took home two respective wins. On Wednesday’s schedule, The earlier game went in favor of the Stags, 4-2, but they dropped off in the evening game when Siena swept them 7-0. Thursday’s games followed a similar trend, with Fairfield claiming the first win 5-1, while the second game finished with the Stags down 7-0 once again.
This past weekend, the Stags faced Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J. for a pair of double headers. On Saturday, Fairfield picked up two wins (4-2, 5-3), however Sundays games were postponed. They will close out their regular season with twelve more games, facing conference rivals including Saint Peter’s University, Quinnipiac University and Monmouth University in the upcoming weeks.
The 2021 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship Quarterfinals is scheduled for the weekend of May 8, while the 2021 MAAC Championship will be held during the weekend of May 14.