Photo provided
The Springville-Griffith Institute softball team works out in the weight room during the offseason.
Photo provided
Pictured is the 2019 Springville-Griffith Institute varsity softball team, coached by Kim Pazzuti and assistant Brian Stedman.

By Sam Wilson

After a year on the job, Springville varsity softball coach Kim Pazzuti doesn’t want a repeat of her rookie campaign.

So whether the weather cooperated or not, Pazzuti made sure her Griffins got in the practice they needed leading up to the start of the spring season.

“We’ve been doing a lot this season already,” Pazzuti said on Tuesday. “We played in a winter league over in Sahlens (Sports Park in Elma) because our spring last year was horrific. It was a nightmare. My first game was the first time we were on a field. I’m like, ‘I can’t let that happen again.’”

So the SGI squad had a head start, at least compared to last year’s team, before practice even started in March.

“We played all winter long over in Sahlens, we played January and February and then we started practices in March,” said Pazzuti, who spent three years coaching modified and one at JV before last season. “We’ve been going to the weight room at 6 a.m. on Friday mornings at the high school, just trying to change things up.

“They’ve gotten more reps than they had last year so hopefully we’ll be more prepared once the season gets rolling.”

Coming off a 2-17 season, Springville should have more winnable games in 2019 after moving down to the Erie County Interscholastic Conference (ECIC) Division IV. The change results from a slight dip in the school’s BEDS numbers, but Springville will likely return to Div. III next year, Pazzuti said.

Pazzuti said she attended a coaching clinic at Buffalo State in hopes of learning how to practice more effectively indoors, and the Griffins have spent hours in the batting cage in the middle school gym.

“We’re trying to get as much batting as possible,” she said. “That’s where we struggled last year was our batting. We’re pretty solid in the fields so we’ve been focusing on our bats.”

Springville returns seven varsity players, including senior all-league center fielder Meadow Wittman.

“(Wittman) had my best batting average last year and she was a rock star in centerfield,” Pazzuti said. “They were nailing it out there and she can actually throw from centerfield to home plate. She has a great arm.”

Also returning for the Griffins are senior Olivia Fisher (first base) and sophomores Marin Lehr (left field), Kaitlyn Mesch (catcher), Meghan Rehauer (shortstop) and Kaitlyn Wolf (pitcher).

Newcomers to the team include sophomores Emily Ehilers (pitcher, third base), Isabella Oakley (right field, first base), Sydney Wittmer (outfield), Autumn Woodruff (third base), Samantha Yetter (second base); juniors Lilia Densie (third base, pitcher) and Makaila Place (first base); eighth grader Ella Wittman (second base) and foreign exchange student Lina Voegele.

Pazzuti expects defense to be the team’s strength.

“We a pretty solid infield and I’m looking for those bats to come around,” she said. “I’ve got Kait Wolf, she’s a 10th grader, but she had a really good bat last year. I struggle when I’m making my batting lineup, where to put everybody, because Meadow seems to be the one who can move around the bases. She’s so aggressive around the bases that she sometimes overruns them.

“But I expect Meghan Rehauer, Kait Wolf and Meadow to be my leaders with the bats. Then I have Marin, she’s awesome, she bunts amazing. She gets on base. And Ella is really solid too.”

Wolf moves into the main starting pitcher’s role after being the squad’s second pitcher last season.

“She knew coming back this year she was going to be relied on as our starting pitcher,” Pazzuti said. “She’s been working in the offseason with a coach from Buff State and she’s been working hard in that position. She’s a very reliable pitcher. My second and third pitchers, I’m working on right now.”

Pazzuti referenced the principals in the acronym ROOTS: “respecting their opponents, officials, team and self” for how she wants the team to play this year. She especially wants the team to “come together.”

“I want them to come together as a team,” she said, “trusting that when one is involved with a play, the other is going to be there to back them up so that they can play that position the way they’re supposed to. For instance, my corner’s playing up for a bunt, do they know the second baseman or the shortstop is going to be covering their base? I want them to be able to trust each other in those situations.”