A familiar ping: Softball players turning up in Dalton to play games, see friends
DALTON — The sound of silence emanated from Pine Grove Park during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. That has changed, though, as the Dalton Youth Softball League is in full swing now, bringing players from Wahconah, Monument Mountain, Pittsfield and Miss Hall's School to the diamond.
"I've missed this atmosphere a lot," Wahconah graduated Abby Wells said. "Losing my senior year was tough because I missed my last year to play with all the girls, but being on the field, I have a lot of teammates on this team, along with the other teams I can joke around with.
"Sports in general are obviously going to be competitive and tough, but when you keep a light air about it you can make girls fall in love with that game."
Wells, who will be playing Division II softball at the University of Bridgeport, has been hitting two or three times a week since March in order to stay prepared. She was more than ready to jump into action on Monday, as her and Superior Graphics defeated Lions Club 9-1. Wells reached base in all three of her at-bats, including a three-run home run in the bottom of the third inning. While only one team earned a win, both teams left the field with smiles on their faces.
"That is what it is all about right now, especially for our seniors that graduated and missed their final year," said Dustin Belcher, the Director of Recreation at the Dalton Community Recreation Association. "I am fortunate because of my job I have the opportunity to do something for the kids and offer this program. Although I can't be on the field coaching, I can be here during the games and watch them go out on the field and do what they love doing and that is the best part for me.
"The wins are great, but to see kids out here truly for the love of the game together is awesome."
Casey Wilson was on the mound for Superior Graphics (1-2) and was lights out in the win. She pitched a complete game that featured eight strikeouts to just three hits.
"I have been playing a long time with [most of these players] or worked with them at clinics," Wells said. "I am glad to see them out there and it is my job to make sure they still like the game and are having fun."
On the mound for Lions Club (2-2) was fellow Wahconah Warrior Morgan Marauszwski, who is up to her neck in softball so far this summer.
"Everything feels a little bit more normal [with softball back]," Marauszwski said. "I definitely play a lot more softball than I normally would, but I enjoy it and its a lot of fun."
When she isn't playing at Pine Grove, Marauszwski is competing with the NWS Elite 18U softball team out of Westfield. Joining her on the team are fellow Warriors Jess Duma and Kaylee O'Bryan.
"I've been trying to go on runs [to stay active] and keep things as normal as possible," Marauszwski said.
The Dalton Youth Softball League is made up of three teams of roughly 13 players and games are held on Monday and Wednesday nights. When two teams are slated to play, the third is on the other field holding a practice.
"I was happily surprised with the number of kids that wanted to play," Belcher said. "We have three great coaches who were willing to volunteer and a number of alumni coming back to coach. It is a great family atmosphere and has been a great experience."
These players won't get the 2020 high school softball season back, but they still get the magic of playing under the lights at Pine Grove Park.
"It is my favorite feeling in the world," Marauszwski said of the lights coming on at dusk. "It is a rush of adrenaline where you want to do great. You want the ball hit to you all the time and you want to be up to bat.
"I love every second of it."
Jake Mendel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @JMendel94 on Twitter and 413-496-6252.
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