PITTSFIELD -- Of the 14 players on the 2014 Berkshire Force roster, 10 of them were not members of the 2013 team that finished fourth in the Babe Ruth 16-under Softball World Series in Wilson, N.C.
The other four -- Allie Hunt, Mir Voller, Jill Campbell and Megan Boyle -- made the trip with head coach Jim Clary. They all understand what's ahead for the team, and the community.
"You have the whole community coming together," Hunt said. "We want to make a good impression on the teams coming in."
The Force players have been practicing and playing tournament games in preparation for the start of the World Series. The Force, which hosted last year's New England regional, will play in the first tournament game on Wednesday.
"Our regional was better than the World Series," Campbell said. "All the support we had for a regional tournament said a lot about how much this community could do when everyone worked on the same thing."
The Berkshire Force is one of 16 teams that will be gathering at the Doyle Complex for this year's tournament. Teams will be arriving from as far away as Lodi, Calif., and Hoquiam, Wash., and as close as Rochester, N.H. and Massachusetts state champion Plymouth. The Force, as the host team, received an automatic berth in the tourney.
Because of their tournament experience, Force head coach Clary named the quartet of returnees as captains.
"Last year they were considered the young ones," said Kailey Bell.
Rachel Voller is a member of the Force and the younger sister of Mir. She remembers it all vividly.
"I watched my sister play softball for Jim Clary almost my entire life. He's a great coach and he always finds a way to get the girls excited, to get the girls pumped," Rachel Voller said during practice on Thursday. "Last year, I was actually honored that I got to watch the girls. They had a great bond.
"I hope that this year, we reach that."
While they are all going to be key players on the field for the Force, the veteran players off-the-field role might be just as important.
"We always try to talk to" the newer Force members, said Boyle, "to get them ready for it."
Rachel Voller said the veterans bring a lot to the table, and the 10 newcomers learn from them every day.
"They bring way more than just experience. They tell us what we're going to be doing and how it's going to work." she said. "They're great captains. They're always there for us."
One thing the veterans can talk to the newer players about is how nerves can impact their game.
"It was all just a softball game," Hunt said, matter-of-factly. "Yeah, it was the World Series, but every game is just a game."
The shortstop, who was voted the MVP of the New England Regional here last year, said that while it was just a game, that didn't mean she wasn't nervous and that she had butterflies.
"I don't know if I ever got rid of them," she said. "I like the butterflies. It motivates me."
Boyle admitted she was also nervous in Wilson.
"The World Series was very nerve wracking, but winning the regionals gave us the confidence to go into the World Series," she said.
"We started off and we were nervous because you want to make the World Series. Then it started to get to elimination time and we knew we should be in the top five," said Campbell. "The nerves were going in every game, every single time we're at bat."
Organizers like Clary, Pittsfield Girls Softball president Tom Murphy and World Series PR and Hotel Coordinator Michele Rivers Murphy are all looking forward to having big crowds surrounding the four softball fields up on Benedict Road.
"I think the people watching makes the game more fun," Boyle said. "It makes it more competitive. You get excited when people are cheering you on."
"It was intimidating. It kind of gave you a rush so you wanted to play better," said Hunt.
After getting the home team berth in 2008, the Force qualified for the World Series in 2009 and 2010 before last year's trip. Last year, the team advanced out of pool play, something it hadn't done before, eventually finishing fourth.
For the team's veterans, the message to the newer players is for them to chart their own path and don't think about last year.
"They shouldn't feel like they should live up to those expectations," Campbell said. "This is a new team. We're better in different ways. We're more prepared than we were last year."
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