Versatility, defense crucial to Berkshire Force 14U with World Series approaching
PITTSFIELD — The Berkshire Force 14U softball team is headed to Jensen Beach, Fla. on Tuesday to play in the Babe Ruth World Series, which will start on Thursday.
And after back-to-back appearances in the World Series with the 16U softball team, Jim Clary is in his first year back coaching the 14U team.
"The 14's coach moved up to 16's, and I was kind of out of the loop," Clary said. "My daughter [Brianna Clary] is on the team and I wanted to spend more time coaching her."
The players feel good going into this year's World Series. Abby Sanchez believes it is because of how much the team has improved on defense.
"Our defense was solid this year," Sanchez said. "We have all seen it improve a lot [over last season]. It is going to help us a lot."
Many of the girls stressed how important it is to be better on the field, but they also believe they have become a better hitting team.
"Our bats have gotten a lot stronger," Brianna Clary said. "From our leadoff hitter to our number nine hitter, everybody on this team can hit the ball well."
One of the biggest keys for the team is that about 10 of the 13 players from last year's group that went to Florida are returning for another run. To take it one step further, more than half of the players have been playing together since they were 10 years old.
"We are more confident this year, way more," Tess Lyon said. "We have way more utility players and they can play any position we put them at."
Every team loses a couple of players, but the 14U Force hasn't lost a step, seeing how the core has been able to stay together for three-plus years.
"From last year, our team hasn't changed that much," Kaitlyn Reynolds said. "From last year to this year, we have grown so much as a team. It is outstanding to see how much we have grown."
Not only has being on the same team since they were 10 helped everyone improve their individual game, Sarah McMahon believes it takes them a step ahead.
"In a way, it helps us," McMahon said. "We all know how to play together, knowing all of our different strengths and weaknesses."
Last weekend, the team went to Greenfield to compete in a tournament in which they finished second and also finished third in a tournament the weekend before.
"[Not coming in first] is a failure we can build off of," Mary Lee said. "We beat the team last Friday night and we were able to learn a lot [last weekend]."
The Force will be competing in another tournament this weekend before leaving for Florida.
"We are just really excited to go down there," Lyon said. "We want to make Pittsfield proud."
Just like the 16U team, if anyone would like to support the team, but cannot make it all the way to Jensen Beach, the squad has set up a couple of fundraisers before they leave Tuesday. On Friday, there will be a wine tasting taking place at Skyline in Lanesborough at 6 p.m. On Sunday, the team is hosting a pancake breakfast at Applebees in Pittsfield that will start around 8 a.m.