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Penn softball pitches in a game against Princeton on Apr. 2, 2023.

Credit: Nathaniel Sirlin

Following a challenging 8-37 season, Penn women's softball aims to bounce back, particularly in the pitching department. With the strategic hiring of Christina Biggerstaff as the new assistant coach, Penn softball is poised for significant improvement.

“Last season definitely didn't go how we had hoped, but we actually have a brand new pitching staff, coaching staff this year, including a pitching coach, and we have prepared a lot more by just putting in a lot of extra work, which has been awesome," junior right-handed pitcher Payton Bean said. "The new coaching staff has worked a lot on our mental game, as well as our physical game, [where] it has been a lot more of talking through situations, working on fundamentals, making sure that everything we have mentally and physically is up to par with how we want our season to go.”  

Junior right-handed pitcher Rachel Riley said that “the new coaching staff this year added things to our culture and things we work on, and it's just been more intensity and implementing winners' talk only, so it helps us to be more confident in the team as a whole and then us individually.”

Last season, Bean emerged as a standout leader in pitching, delivering an exceptional performance, pitching in 44.2 innings while maintaining an impressive 3.45 ERA in addition to a notable 1.34 walks plus hits per inning pitched. Bean also limited opponents to a 0.251 batting average. Moving into this season, she aims to build on these achievements with the help of a new training regimen. 

Bean emphasized that “it's just been a lot more work rather than just [focusing] strictly [on the] physical elements, [which] has been great. We all feel very prepared, and we've been motivated [to] put in [the] extra work. So we all feel like we're really ready to go into the season with much better footing than we did last year.”

Even with this impressive ERA, Bean believes she and her fellow pitchers can decrease their ERAs significantly. She said, “We worked on anticipating what the team against us is going to do and make a plan of attack for that, [which has been] super successful in scrimmages and the live reps that we have done, [so] just being kind of one step ahead of the competition. And so I think this [is] going to help all of our pitchers decrease our ERAs going into season."

While Bean had a successful season in her limited playing time, her teammates struggled for the most part. Riley posted a 6.30 ERA, with a 2.10 WHIP, and opponent batting average of 0.366. Despite this struggle, she looks to improve significantly this coming season. 

Riley highlighted the importance of the new assistant coach, saying, “Working with coach [Biggerstaff], she has really broken down all my pitches and made them better, so they move more and spin more. And she's just been really supportive [in] helping me grow my physical game, but also my mental game by putting me in hard game-like scenarios in the fall, so when I get to a game, I don't feel any pressure.”

Going into next season, Bean said that “success for us as a team is not letting any preconceived notions from last year let our game be affected by that this year, [meaning] not letting anything negatively that's happened in the past few years kind of trickle into this season.” She added that “success this season would be just trusting our new coaches, trusting our new process, [and] trusting all of the prep and hard work that we put in in the offseason.”

Riley shared similar sentiments, saying, “We need to continue to buy into what the coaches are saying [and] what the coaches are building.”