A comedy duo from the Big Apple occupies the middle infield of the Penn softball team. The tandem’s routine includes heel clicks, double plays and dance moves from “Dirty Dancing.”
Charming their teammates with mischief and athleticism alike, seniors and New York natives Stephanie Caso and Samantha Erosa anchor the Quakers’ defense at shortstop and second base, respectively. Over the past four seasons, they have accounted for nearly one of every five hits for the Red and Blue and last year helped lead the program to its first division title since 2007.
But among their teammates, Erosa and Caso are better known as gifted pranksters and best friends.
“If something’s up to no good, we’re usually behind it,” Erosa said.
The middle infielders can rattle off a laundry list of pranks and hijinks carried out over their careers at Penn. Their ploys range from spooking teammate Jessica Melendez with jabberwocky masks to duping teammates with seemingly permanent matching airbrush tattoos.
On the field before every defensive inning they perform a special “good luck” handshake routine, which ends with clicking their heels together. Additionally, before each game they reenact choreography from the 1987 film “Dirty Dancing” with Erosa as Patrick Swayze and Caso as Jennifer Grey.
The rest of the team ensures that sometimes the joke is on Caso and Erosa. On one occasion, the New Yorkers took an inflatable boat to a lake near a hotel in Florida while the team was on spring break. The team conspired to attack with water balloons, dumping lake water in the boat. It was only later that Caso and Erosa learned that alligators occupy those waters.
“Our team is all about the shenanigans,” Erosa said.
Despite Caso and Erosa’s goofy personalities, their performance on the softball field doesn’t appear to suffer as a result. Caso is a four-year starter and earned an All-Ivy honorable mention as a freshman, leading the squad with 44 hits. Meanwhile, Erosa has started for three consecutive seasons and currently ranks first on the team with a .341 batting average. In fact, both players claim the team’s well-developed funny bones are a secret to its success.
“That’s kind of our team chemistry as a whole. We play better when that energy is there, that goofiness,” Caso said. “But I don’t think it takes away from the intensity. I think we like to bring a very intense atmosphere when we’re playing. [We’re] always diving for balls and always hustling everything out.”
In Erosa’s experience, staying loose helps everyone play more fluidly, and players that tense up see their performance deteriorate.
“There was a practice that we were told not to talk or goof around and our first defensive set … everyone that touched the ball made an error,” Erosa said. “Definitely the goofy aspect relaxes us and makes us play better.”
Like many comedians, Caso and Erosa trace their origins back to New York City. While Caso attended Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn, Erosa graduated from the Hackley School and hails from the Bronx. During their high school years, they competed against each other in softball and basketball, participating in a competitive rivalry between the schools that made them adversaries.
Their relationship dynamic changed when Caso and Erosa coincidentally took official visits to Penn at the same time.
“[Caso] was sitting on the brick wall by Dunning [Coaches’ Center], and I got out of the car to get my stuff and I saw her sitting on the wall and I was like, ‘There is no way right now. What are the odds of this?” Erosa said. “And then we ended up accepting and going to the same college.”
By their junior years, Caso and Erosa were not only roommates but inseparable friends. On the field, they benefit from their close relationship, working together seamlessly in the infield.
“They’ve basically been playing with each other now for four years defensively — one at short, one at second. They know each other inside and out,” coach Leslie King said. “It’s a really pretty thing to watch them play out there.”
Both players show traces of their New York backgrounds in their personalities. Caso sports a prominent Brooklyn accent, and Erosa laughs off inquiries about the shadiness of the Bronx. According to King, the influence of their hometown is also showcased by their attitudes on the field.
“They’ve got that street-fighter mentality, and that’s huge in our sport, having that grit, having that will to win, doing anything it takes to win,” King said. “They both bring that to the table.”
After graduation in May, both players will return to the city that never sleeps to pursue ambitious career plans. Caso is set to work on issues in health and law at the New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office, while Erosa will attend New York Medical College in order to earn a M.D.
When softball is behind them, Caso and Erosa plan to take advantage of their newfound free time enjoying New York City together, even though they may have less time than they previously supposed.
“We always joke that when we’re done with college and softball … we’re going to have all this time to enjoy some ‘Footloose’ time,” Caso said.
“Now that medical school is in the mix, there’s going to be less ‘Footloose’ time,” Erosa added.
Regardless of how they spend their time after graduation, whether it’s in a law office, an operating room or spending some quality “Footlose” time together in New York City, Caso and Erosa can be expected to keep proving that laughter is the best medicine in its own right.