Softball: Sofia Holden’s home run, pitching sends Amherst past Pope Francis, 3-1 (PHOTOS)

  • Amherst Regional third baseman Ariana Texidor-Melendez fields a ball in a cloud of dust against Pope Francis on Tuesday in Amherst. The Hurricanes won 3-1. GAZETTE STAFF / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Amherst Regional’s Sofia Holden fields a grounder against Pope Francis on Tuesday in Amherst. The Hurricanes won 3-1. GAZETTE STAFF / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Amherst Regional’s Stephanie Barton swings at an incoming pitch against Pope Francis on Tuesday in Amherst. The Hurricanes won 3-1. GAZETTE STAFF / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Amherst Regional’s Sofia Holden pitches against Pope Francis on Tuesday in Amherst. She struck out 13. The Hurricanes won 3-1. GAZETTE STAFF / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Amherst Regional’s Sofia Holden pitches against Pope Francis on Tuesday in Amherst. She struck out 13. The Hurricanes won 3-1. GAZETTE STAFF / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Amherst Regional’s Sofia Holden races home after a deep hit to right field for a home run against Pope Francis on Tuesday in Amherst. The Hurricanes won 3-1. GAZETTE STAFF / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Amherst Regional’s Nina Holden hauls in a pop out against Pope Francis on Tuesday in Amherst. The Hurricanes won 3-1. GAZETTE STAFF / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Amherst Regional second baseman Luna Weiss tracks down a grounder against Pope Francis on Tuesday in Amherst.  GAZETTE STAFF / KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer
Published: 5/10/2022 8:17:42 PM

AMHERST – As Sofia Holden took a few practice swings ahead of her third plate appearance Tuesday, she knew something was off. Still hitless after two at-bats, she tried to figure out what was causing her streak of bad luck.

“Do you think my sunglasses are unlucky?” she asked teammate Maria Konieczny. Konieczny replied that it had to be her new bat that was bringing her bad luck, not her shades.

Just to be sure, Holden took off her sunglasses for her next trip to the plate.

That did the trick.

Holden blasted an inside-the-park home run on a two-strike pitch, breaking her unlucky streak and leading the Hurricanes to a 3-1 victory over Pope Francis in a battle of top Tri-County League teams. 

“I'm very, very superstitious. So sunglasses off when I bat, sunglasses on when I’m pitching,” Holden said. “I've also been wearing the same sliding shorts since fourth grade.” 

As long as they keep racking up wins, the Hurricanes aren’t going to question any of Holden or her teammates’ superstitions. The Hurricanes improved to 10-1 with their win against the Cardinals, a dramatic turnaround from their one-win season last year.

Holden continued her dominance in the circle, recording 13 strikeouts in addition to her solo home run. Konieczny picked up two doubles and scored one of Amherst’s three runs, not at all intimidated by Pope Francis star pitcher Samantha Stortz, who finished the game with 10 K’s of her own. Stortz also walked two and hit three batters. 

Amherst head coach Emma Mendoker said she knew that Tuesday’s game would be a close one, based on the visiting Cardinals’ record this season and having seen several of their opponents play before. It was a strong performance from the Hurricanes at home after a tough loss against South Hadley the night prior, a game that Amherst suffered its first loss of 2022.

“I think it just all comes down to timely hits and making plays on the field,” Mendoker said. “That is something that we struggled with [Monday] playing South Hadley and today we just turned it around and had better communication.”

Pope Francis was one of the tougher opponents Amherst had faced this season, connecting with more of Holden’s blistering pitches than many squads had managed during April and early May. The Cardinals finished with six hits, and the Hurricanes had a number of plays that their fielders had to take care of instead of solely relying on Holden’s pitching talent. That’s not a bad thing for the younger team as they get closer to the postseason, but it is something that they aren’t as used to in game situations.

Having Holden as a pitcher is both a blessing and a curse – she has 160 strikeouts this year, which means her fielders don’t always get the opportunity to test themselves mid-game. 

“It's good that we're facing these tough teams now before postseason, so that we can kind of get used to being in a game situation and having that experience of pressure and fielding,” Mendoker said. “It's different in practice, because practice they're fine, but in a game, it does take some experience to get a hold of that.”

Mendoker, Holden and Konieczny said they’ve all seen significant improvements from the beginning of season to now from everyone, but the Hurricanes are still relying on some of their more veteran leaders both on the field and in the dugout. 

“We have Grace Johnson, who hurt her knee over the winter, and she was our shortstop last year. She's very (good) at keeping the team in its energy and just keeping everyone on track. So she has been really big for us,” Mendoker said. “Maria and Sofia, Ariana [Texidor-Melendez] have been really big leaders on this team and just keeping everyone on track.” 

Whether it's newcomers or more experienced players, it’s clear that Amherst softball is a team to watch, not just this season but for years to come. Going from a season with just one win to a season with just one loss has caught peoples’ attention.

“I think it's gonna make a lot more people want to play and want to be here. Being on a winning team is a lot more exciting,” Konieczny said.


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