After her 2019 season ended with a disappointing first round tournament loss, Westfield State junior softball pitcher and Woburn native Emily Arredondo was determined to atone for that disappointment.
However, thanks the global pandemic, Arredondo is much like a lot of college spring athletes who had their seasons and dreams cut short.
During the annual trip to Florida, word reached the team that its following two weeks of games were postponed, but still with the potential to be rescheduled.
As the team’s road trip in Florida went along, Arredondo and her teammates became increasingly aware of the coronavirus threat. They also became more concerned when other teams in the MASCAC, such as Framingham State and Salem State, were cancelling its season-opening trips to Florida.
“During the trip we were all aware of the COVID-19 threat, so we all carried hand sanitizers and were cautious of our surroundings,” said Arredondo. “We were concerned but grateful we had the chance to play in Florida.
“I didn’t think about our games getting postponed, since we were playing in Florida and having a great time,” added Arredondo. “It felt like we were away from all that, when in reality we were not. Even when they postponed the next two weeks of our season I stayed optimistic since I didn’t want our season to end.”
Arredondo and Westfield were at least able to go out as winners.
In what turned out to be the last game of Westfield State’s season-opening road trip to Florida on March 11, Arredondo showed the form that characterized her freshman season in Westfield. She allowed just one earned run and six hits over six innings, to help Westfield State beat Juniata College 9-1 for its first win.
“Our first win against Juniata College was played in perfect playing conditions, as it cooled down so were weren’t playing in 80-degree heat, and we played relaxed,” said Arredondo. “But during the game we heard our school’s baseball season was cancelled, so I knew this game definitely meant a lot to our seniors.”
By the time the Westfield State softball team returned home that weekend, several spring sports conferences had already cancelled its seasons. By this time Arredondo and her teammates could only wait and hope for the best.
All of their hopes became a stunning disappointment the following Monday, March 16, when the MASCAC officially cancelled all spring sports, which effectively ended the Westfield State softball season after just eight games. While it was a bitter pill for the team to swallow, Arredondo kept things in perspective.
“I am very happy that we ended our Florida road trip with a win, and that I got the chance to play with this great group of young players,” said Arredondo. “They have so much talent which I know they will bring to next season.”
Her college softball career had started with much promise in 2018, when she was named to the MASCAC All-Conference softball second team, and was the MASCAC softball rookie of the week early that season, for pitching both a complete-game shutout, and in the next game yielding just one earned run.
But while she did pitch a perfect game in 2019, overall Arredondo didn’t fulfill expectations last year. Her ERA increased from 2.97 two years ago to 5.32 last season. So after not having her best season last year, Arredondo was determined to bounce back and return much better for this season.
“Since the end of last season, I spent time in the off-season to better myself as a player,” said Arredondo. “The 2019 season was not our typical season due to injuries and other things, so I used the off-season to clear my head, and to focus on looking forward to this season with our new team.
“I also worked to become a stronger pitcher by watching pitching videos to help me with my spins, speed, and other tips I use for my benefit,” added Arredondo. “I also worked out in the gym three-to-five days a week, as I always invest a lot of time in pre-season to make my contribution to my team significant.”
Arredondo’s hard work helped her become the ace of the Westfield State softball team as a freshman two years ago. At Woburn High she was a two-time Middlesex League Liberty Division All-Star and MVP, going 19-4 with 122 strikeouts and a 1.22 ERA, including a perfect game, in her senior year of 2017.
With her season cut short, Arredondo then re-shifted her focus on her school work. And with the team away from softball, Arredondo had more time to talk to players on other softball teams that had their seasons cut short as well.
“Since our season ended, I’ve focused on switching from in-class academics to online a lot more,” said Arredondo. “I’ve contacted a few friends that also play college softball, and talked about how our seasons are cancelled, and for some of them it’s their final season.”
The abrupt premature end to the softball season also made Arredondo aware of her new routine of spending entire days at home for online classes and studying, and not moving on to the softball field after classes.
“It definitely feels weird not spending every day after class getting ready for a game or practice, and not working that much,” said Arredondo. “But I know it’s for the best for everyone’s health. The weather has been nice too lately, which makes it more frustrating that we could be playing in warm weather right now.”
With the spring softball season cancelled, Arredondo is already looking ahead beyond the end of the school year to the summer. While there is no certainty yet whether the current COVID-19 situation will let up enough by then to allow summer sports to be played, Arredondo remains optimistic that will happen.
“My plans for the summer would be like other college kids,” said Arredondo. “For me it will include work, and if I have time and there’s a summer season, help coach my old travel time, the EMass Panthers Gold U-18 team with Guy Cafarella. Then in the fall I will do what I normally do to prepare for next season.”
Not long after the NCAA cancelled spring sports, it granted eligibility relief for all Division 1 and soonafter did the same for D-3. Westfield State is in Division 3.
In Division 3, student-athletes have 10 semesters or 15 quarters to get in four seasons of participation. With this move by the NCAA, the 2020 spring semester will not count toward their 10 semesters or four seasons.
Arredondo would be eligible to play a “fifth year” in 2022 after her senior year in 2021.
To take advantage of that eligibility and play a fifth year, Arredondo would have to either still be completing her undergraduate work, or move on to graduate school. But right now Arredondo is leaning more towards moving on to Law School than grad school after she graduates from Westfield State next spring so a “fifth year” seems unlikely for her at the present time.