Lots of Penn students do some pretty cool things with their summers. But what softball rising seniors Samantha Erosa and Jessica Melendez just did has got to rank up there at the top.
Melendez and Erosa wrapped up a stint on the Puerto Rican national softball team over the weekend at the International Softball Federation’s World Championship, which was played in Whitehorse, Yukon.
Melendez is a veteran of the international softball stage.
“I’ve been playing with the Puerto Rican National Team Federation since 2006 and every time that I’ve gotten a call back to play it’s an honor for me. I love the game of softball, and I love Puerto Rico, so to be able to represent the island on the international stage is something very special to me,” wrote Melendez in an email.
Since softball is no longer an Olympic sport, the ISF tournament is the sport’s most prestigious tournament and is held every four years and is the “equivalent of the Olympics” for softball, according to Melendez. This was the first time Puerto Rico qualified for the World Championship in 10 years.
Puerto Rico went 3-4 in pool play and advanced to the championship playoffs, where they fell to Australia in the quarterfinals.
Erosa played in six of the seven ISF games and recorded one hit, two walks and two runs scored.
Melendez also saw action in six games, getting one hit, one walk and one walk on a hit-by-pitch. She started in center field in the quarterfinal game.
But the ISF World Championship was not the first time the Penn duo represented Puerto Rico.
Melendez and Erosa also played for Puerto Rico in the World Cup of Softball tournament from June 27-July 2, held in Oklahoma City, and the Canadian Open Fastpitch International Championship in Surrey, British Columbia, from July 4-9.
Puerto Rico went 1-5 overall, with their victory against Brazil, 4-1, to end up in fifth place overall. The United States won the tournament with an unprecedented 6-0 record, scoring 34 runs against their opponents and allowing only two.
In the Canadian Open, Puerto Rico went 1-4 overall, finishing sixth of seven teams.
One of the best parts of the experience, Melendez said, was the exposure she and the team got to what the world of elite softball has to offer.
“We traveled for an entire month, playing in three different tournaments against all the best teams and players in the world that we always see on TV, including a lot of past Olympians, College World Series champions and even the fastest pitcher in the world from Japan,” she said. “It’s an opportunity that so few people get, and I see it as really being a blessing.”
Overall, Melendez said she was happy with her performance, despite the amount of time it took to get back into the swing of playing.
“The start of training was a little rocky for all of us considering we were a month out of playing and almost none of us had been facing live pitching, but we all eventually caught up,” she said. “Defensively I felt great throughout the month, but offensively it took me a while to warm up. I think it was especially difficult because all of the pitchers we were facing were very good and the defense behind them was even better.”
Erosa and Melendez were both crucial to the Quakers’ success in the 2011-12 season, in which Penn advanced to the Ivy Championship game for the first time since 2007.
Erosa was one of the captains and earned second-team All-Ivy honors. She started 45 games of the season at second base, was one of three players who batted over .300 on the season and finished second on the team in on-base percentage (.393).
Melendez was honorable mention All-Ivy, starting 46 games in center field. She led the team in home runs (8) and was second in runs batted in (27) and slugging percentage (.576). She finished the 2011-12 season with a .246 batting average.
But good plays and career-high stats were not the only things Melendez took from the Quakers’ standout season.
“This year at Penn was definitely our best since I’ve been here, and I think it really did help me prepare to play at this next level,” she said. “In addition to that, as an upperclassman I had more of a leadership role than I did before, and the same could be said for the Puerto Rican team. Being that I was the second oldest veteran with the team, this was the first year that I had to step up as a leader and this past Penn season really helped me with that.”
As for next year, expectations will be high for the Red and Blue to build upon the 2011-12 campaign. They will look to the leadership of Melendez and Erosa, but also fellow standout seniors Brooke Coloma, Jessica Arneson and Stephanie Caso.
“I think having the experience [of playing on the Puerto Rican national team] and especially sharing it with my teammate Sam is definitely going to help prepare us for what’s coming in the 2012-13 season,” Melendez said. “We’re both hoping to contribute to the team’s success as much as we can ,so any time that we can play beyond Penn and especially against top competition helps us to contribute even more.”