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Senior captain left fielder Mary Evans and the Guilford softball squad were looking to get that extra win necessary to qualify for the State Tournament after notching seven victories in 2019. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior Eva Ott Hill (right) was going to make a big transition to the catcher’s position this year after mostly patrolling the outfield for the Indians the past few seasons. (File photo courtesy of Kate Ott )
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The Guilford softball team came up one win shy of qualifying for the State Tournament last year. Head Coach Meghan Wiese’s club had its sights set on making states in 2020 and was poised for a strong campaign before the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the cancellation of all spring sports.
The Indians were returning five starters after posting a record of 7-13 last year. Two of the team’s biggest contributors were current seniors Mary Evans, a three-year starter in left field, and Eva Ott Hill, who had started in right field for the past three seasons and was set to transition to catcher on a full-time basis this year.
Evans, the lone captain on the Indians, started all 20 games last spring. She had three doubles at the plate and went the entire season without committing an error in the field. Ott Hill posted a .281 batting average to go with a .905 fielding percentage in 2019.
“Coming into this year, our main goal was to qualify for states. We knew that was achievable,” Coach Wiese said. “Working hard was another goal of ours. Good things happen if you leave it all out on the field, and we knew there was plenty of room for people to step up.”
Other significant players who were coming back for Guilford included junior Jill Batick, a center fielder who earned All-SCC Second Team honors last year; along with fellow junior Ema Signore, a pitcher. Batick led the squad in batting average (.333), slugging percentage (.491), hits (19), and runs scored (12). Signore started all 20 contests on the mound, pitching 17 complete games for the Indians. Sophomore Allie Petonito was slated to play second base for Coach Wiese’s squad had the campaign not been canceled.
“When the season was called in early May, at the beginning of the whole quarantine thing, I thought we were going to be able to play. Maybe even just a practice at the slightest, but I wanted to remain optimistic, and so did the girls,” said Wiese. “As April came and then May, we saw the number of positive cases growing, and we knew it was unlikely we were going to have a season.”
When everything was still in limbo, Wiese encouraged her athletes to go outside and hit off a tee into a net if they could, or simply toss the ball around in the yard in order to stay active.
“I wasn’t sending them videos, but I was just trying to keep the girls positive with the hope that we might actually play this year,” she said.
Wiese reached out to Evans and Ott Hill as soon as she found out there wouldn’t be a season. Wiese also held a couple of Zoom meetings where the Indians could stay connected and get the latest updates. Evans will be attending Salve Regina University in Rhode Island, and Ott Hill is going to Michigan State in the fall.
“My heart breaks for all the seniors, but especially my two. They’re missing out on so much, and my hope is that this is just a small bump in the road for them,” Coach Wiese said. “One of the things that makes it so difficult for me is that I teach at Adams Middle School, so I taught all of these kids prior to them coming to play for the softball team. You really establish a bond, and this would have been our sixth year together. I want to thank both Mary and Eva for their dedication to the team.”
Both seniors shared many memorable moments on the Guilford diamond throughout the past few years. Wiese said she will always remember when the Indians knocked off Cheshire, which was riding a 39-game winning streak, during the 2017 season.
“The career highlight for these girls came against Cheshire, who was the No. 1 team in the state at the time,” said Wiese. “This was their freshman year, and Mary stepped to the plate and broke a 1-1 tie with a two-run double, and we ended up winning 3-1.”
With a full season swept aside, Coach Wiese now has her sights set on the 2021 campaign. Wiese expects the Indians to compete for a State Tournament berth next year.
“I’m going into next season with the hope that things will be returning back to some form of normalcy. We are going to see what happens with schools going into the fall and how it works,” Wiese said. “We’re down another two players, but that just means there’s more room for others to step up. The number of kids signing up to play softball at Guilford is increasing and, for the first time in four years, we might actually have a junior varsity team, which is exciting.”
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