PITTSFIELD — The Pittsfield softball team is used to having a target on its back. The Generals have compiled a 34-14 regular season record over the last three seasons and are coming off a one-run loss in the Division I Western Massachusetts final to Agawam. But despite their proven track record, the Generals must answer one looming question: Who will replace ace Julia Murphy and take over as their No. 1 pitcher?
At least early on, there are two correct answers to that question: senior Emily Koldys and sophomore Guilanna Pierce. Koldys split time in the circle with Murphy last season before an injury sent her to the outfield. Pierce does not have the experience of Koldys, but has pitched in important games as a member of the Berkshire Force travel team. Replacing a pitcher that caught fire during the postseason and finished with an 11-2 record, 0.76 ERA and 106 strikeouts to just 11 walks in 89 innings won't be easy, but coach Greg Marchbanks said his team is more than capable of keeping its performance at a high level.
"It's going to be a combination of the two of them," Marchbanks said of the pitching situation. "Whoever ends with the most confidence and the best consistency is going to be the one that gets the most innings. It's all right there for whoever wants it.
"Every single year somebody steps up and I'm sure it's going to happen again."
Whoever ends up getting the majority of the innings will have the benefit of Allie Hunt's defense at shortstop and her prolific offensive production at the plate. Last year's All-Eagle MVP batted .463 with a .746 slugging percentage and a .538 on-base percentage. She had 31 hits, 25 RBI, seven doubles, three triples and two home runs. The RPI commit said even without Murphy, she does not feel any added pressure to produce at the plate.
"Emily and Guilianna are both really strong and specialize differently in their pitching styles, so I don't think there will be any difference [from last season]," Hunt said. "I hope [teammates] can feed off me. I try to be the one to get the timely hit and get the team going. I want to be the example for them, that everyone can do this."
Sophomore catcher Hayley Tobin, juniors Erin Murphy and Alex Desrochers, and Koldys are all more than capable quality offensive production as well. Marchbanks also expects freshman Abby Santos to fill-in in the outfield.
Berkshire North foes Wahconah and Mount Greylock return the core of Western Mass. tournament teams, so the race for the top spot in the division will be intriguing. Marchbanks said his team cannot get caught in looking ahead, or focusing too much on a return to the Western Mass. final. He's preaching a steady, week-by-week approach to his players. And for teams that think the Generals could be vulnerable without Murphy, Koldys said they wouldn't mind being overlooked.
"It makes us go in and play our hardest and surprise people," she said. "Because if they're not expecting us to do good, we'll still go out and do our best."
Contact Akeem Glaspie at 413-496-6252.