Kenny's girl

WOBURN’S EMILY ARREDONDO was in complete control when she pitched a perfect game for her college team Westfield State against Mass Maritime on April 19. In a game shortened to five innings due to the run rule, Arredondo struck out six.

When Woburn native Emily Arredondo moved on from pitching for the Woburn High softball team to continue her softball career at Westfield State, she noticed a big difference in the levels of intensity and aggressiveness among the players and coaches at the college level compared to what she experienced at Woburn High.

“In high school there’s less intensity, but here at Westfield State the players are bigger and more aggressive, and the coaches are more intense,” said Arredondo. “There’s more adrenaline and excitement here, and I feel each game I play here is like a playoff game in high school.”

A two-time Daily Times Chronicle Softball All-Star, Westfield State has proven to be a nice fit for Arredondo. The 5-foot-5 windmill pitcher has seen consistent playing time since her arrival. The results have been mixed so far (14-17 career record) for a team that hovers around the .500 mark during her two seasons.

However, last Friday in the first game of a doubleheader against Mass Maritime, Arredondo pitched a gem — a perfect game.

Arredondo struck out six as the game was shortened to five innings by MASCAC rule with the Owls ahead by more than eight runs after five innings.

The gem was gratifying for her and validated all the hard work she has put into her game.

Arredondo performed exceptionally well as a freshman pitcher for Westfield State’s softball team last year. Early in the season she earned MASCAC softball rookie of the week, for first pitching a complete-game, two-hit, shutout for her first collegiate win, then two days later earned a second complete-game win allowing just one earned run.

“I felt really humbled, and it was nice to be recognized like that for those accomplishments, especially as a freshman,” said Arredondo. “I felt last year coming in as a freshman in college I had to prove myself more than I did in high school, and I felt I accomplished that last year.”

Arredondo went on to have a solid freshman season. She went 8-9 in 22 appearances with 20 starts.

She allowed just 50 earned runs in 117 innings pitched for an ERA of just 2.97.

In the MASCAC tournament, Arredondo allowed just four earned runs in 20 innings pitched in five games for an ERA of just 1.38. This helped Westfield State win three tournament games and advance to the conference championship game.

But in that title game Arredondo learned a lesson in humility. She pitched the first four innings and allowed just one hit and no runs, yet wasn’t on the field when Framingham State broke a scoreless tie by scoring in the bottom of the seventh inning to earn a 1-0 win, and end Westfield State’s season one win short of securing an NCAA Division 3 tournament berth.

USED AS MOTIVATION

Despite that tough setback, Arredondo remained remarkably upbeat, and used that loss as motivation, to try and improve her pitching enough to help Westfield State win the conference championship this season.

“It was frustrating, but I knew I would get a chance to win a championship again this year,” said Arredondo. “I felt that loss was a learning experience. I learned to stay aggressive and positive, and try to improve my pitching knowing I would get another chance to win it this year.”

Arredondo practiced pitching extensively during workouts at the gym this past off-season, to try and become a better pitcher this year. Her efforts helped Arredondo achieve some success during an early-season road trip to Florida, starting with a complete-game win allowing just one run, then earned a second complete-game win yielding three earned runs with four strikeouts.

“During the off-season I focused on getting into shape at the gym, working out and eating healthy,” said Arredondo. “I worked more on my pitching to try to be a better pitcher, and I felt that I’ve done that. I’m happy with how I’ve been performing this year.”

While Arredondo endured some rough outings after Westfield State returned to New England, she did come through with two more complete-game wins, allowing just three earned runs in both contests. Her efforts helped Westfield State get through a stretch of eight losses in 10 games, and still stay in a position to qualify for the conference tournament.

“Emily (Arredondo) is a great pitcher, and where she goes, we go,” said Westfield State softball coach Colleen Bannister. “When she is doing her thing, we can’t help but come back from deficits and win, and that’s why I recruited her.

The biggest thing she’s improved on from last year is her leadership,” continued Bannister. “Last year she knew she was a freshman, and now this year she knows she’s the player that will help us get to where we need to go.”

Despite Arredondo’s efforts, Westfield State was still in a precarious position in the sixth and final spot for playoff qualification, heading into a key doubleheader against seventh-place Salem State on Saturday, April 13. Coincidentally, this twin-bill was played at Salem State, Arredondo’s closest appearance to Woburn this season, just 13 miles from Woburn center.

With added support from family, friends, and past coaches in attendance, Arredondo endured two rough innings, as Salem State took a 6-5 lead after four innings. Yet through that stretch she remained remarkably poised and confident.

It was in the bottom of the fifth inning when Arredondo used her poise and confidence to escape a tough situation, and help get Westfield State’s season back on track.

With runners on second and third and no outs, Arredondo retired the next three batters on a strikeout, an infield pop out, and a ground out right back to her, and escape the jam unscathed.

Buoyed by Arredondo’s ability to work her way out of trouble to keep Westfield State just one run behind, her teammates rallied for four runs in the top of the next inning, to give Westfield State a 9-6 lead.

“I felt really good to pitch at Salem State so close to home with so much support from different coaches,” said Arredondo. “They all came to visit me, along with my family and friends, which gave me some added confidence.”

“My high screw balls and curve balls worked really well for me in that game,” continued Arredondo. “My change-ups were a little high, but I still felt my velocity was really good. They got some hits (16) off me, but I still felt in control of my pitches.”

Then in the bottom of the same frame, Arredondo faced a similar sticky spot, when Salem State loaded the bases with one out. Once again Arredondo stayed poised, and got the next two batters on a force out at home plate and a ground out, to again escape trouble unscathed.

Arredondo then retired the side in order in the seventh inning to help Westfield State hold on for the very important 9-6 win.

“I felt it was important when we were in those sticky situations and I felt uncomfortable just to call time out,” said Arredondo. “This gave me time to take a deep breath, and a chance to relax and just rely on how to pitch like it was any situation. That helped me to get out of those jams with no problem.”

Westfield State went on to win the second game of the doubleheader, and vault from sixth to fourth place in the conference standings. Her remarkable ability to work out of trouble in two consecutive innings earned the admiration of her head mentor.

“Her determination helped her get out of those jams,” said Bannister. “Every time she steps onto the field she’s so motivated to do her best in any situation, and she just does her thing. When she is determined to help us win, she knows her teammates will have her back. She knows she has the leadership she developed last year, and now she uses it to help our team.”

Six days after her win over Salem State, Arredondo pitched her gem against Mass Martime which improved Westfield to 8-4 in the MASCAC and 11-19 overall.

Westfield sits in third place in the conference standings, having won six straight games in league play.

STILL ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

Even with her recent success, Arredondo realizes there are still several things in her pitching she can improve on. Arredondo knows her efforts to improve her pitching will help her allow fewer hits and earned runs each game, and lower her earned run average which is currently 5.08.

“There are still some things in my pitching that I can improve on to get better,” said Arredondo. “I can get faster, and I can improve on putting different spins on my pitches, to try and make my pitches more deceptive. I just want to keep batters off-balance and guessing, and to stay mentally tough.”

Arredondo developed her uncanny ability to stay poised and confident in tough situations when she first started playing softball at summer camp in the Woburn recreation league when she was just six years old.

She continued to pitch in the Woburn recreation league through eighth grade, which would have made it a natural progression to start her high school softball career at Woburn High. But having attended Catholic school all her life, she decided initially to attend Arlington Catholic High School, where as a freshman she became the softball team’s starting pitcher.

“I had gone to Catholic schools my whole life, so I felt comfortable first going there,” she recalled. “I had two very successful seasons there, we went to the playoffs my freshman year, and I had fun and it was a good experience.”

But while she enjoyed playing softball at Arlington Catholic, most of her close friends in Woburn were playing softball at Woburn High. So Arredondo decided to transfer to Woburn High for her junior year in high school.

“I wanted to go to a public school and be with my friends,” said Arredondo. “I felt so much better and was happy playing softball at Woburn, and felt so lucky to have Courtney (Sigsbury) as my coach and role model.”

SUCCESS IN WOBURN

Arredondo achieved amazing success as the starting pitcher for the Woburn High softball team her junior and senior years. She was the Middlesex League Liberty Division MVP, and helped Woburn qualify for the tournament, and win at least one tournament game both her years.

“I achieved so much success playing in the Woburn softball program,” said Arredondo. “I knew I was one of the most talented girls on the team and had so much fun playing there, and we made the playoffs the two years I was there.”

After Arredondo was so successful her junior year at Woburn High, she started to contemplate where to continue her softball career after high school. While she considered four different schools, it was during her visit to Westfield State that convinced her that it was the perfect fit for her to go there after high school.

“I considered going Keene State, New England College, Western New England, and Westfield State,” said Arredondo. “The other schools were nice, but I just loved the campus at Westfield State. It had a great Criminal Justice program, and it just called to me and I fell in love with it.

“I went to summer camp there before my senior year in high school, and that’s when I met Colleen (Bannister),” continued Arredondo. “She told me she would need another pitcher after my senior year in high school, and that’s when I decided to go to Westfield State.”

Bannister revealed a nice story that occurred while she was still recruiting Arredondo, which helped her realize what she refers to as Arredondo’s ‘sparkling personality.’ This realization played a key role in helping Bannister convince Arredondo to choose Westfield State to continue her softball career.

“What clinched it was when Emily came to a clinic,” said Bannister. “We had to go inside due to bad weather, and she didn’t have sneakers that day, so I gave her my shoes. Once I did that I knew she was coming here, and later Emily teased me ‘you have magic shoes.’ I wait for kids I like and then offer them my shoes, and what I liked about her was her sparkling personality.”

Bannister knew with Arredondo she had both a talented pitcher and a player with the ideal personality. Since Arredondo started pitching for Westfield State last year, Bannister realizes even more how truly special Arredondo is as a softball pitcher and a person, which she feels is just what her team needs to take the next step and become a conference champion.

“I feel Emily is feeling physically good right now, and that helps knowing every time she steps on the field she will give it her best,” said Bannister. “She knows her best is better than most other players’ best. Hopefully her best will help us go undefeated in the conference from now on, so we’ll keep going in that direction.”

A Criminal Justice and Political Science major, Arredondo also has many personal interests. She feels her high school softball coach Sigsbury has been the most influential person in her life.

GOAL IN SIGHT

Arredondo, who was named to the MASCAC second All-Star team a year ago, realizes to win this year’s conference championship will likely have to beat defending champion Framingham State. Yet Arredondo remains confident Westfield State will not only meet Framingham State in the conference final, but that Westfield State will achieve her goal to beat Framingham State and win the conference championship.

“For the rest of this season I just want to get to the conference finals,” said Arredondo. “I know we will face Framingham State in the finals, and I know we’re going to beat them.”

Her amazing confidence has impressed and convinced Bannister that Arredondo has just the right ability and attitude as the team’s ace pitcher, that can help carry Westfield State to its first-ever conference title.

“We talked about that the first day we met, that with her we’re going to win the conference championship,” said Bannister. “We wanted four championships when she started last year, and now we’re determined to win three championships before she graduates. I know she’ll be able to help us do it, and that’s our goal every day and what we’re focused on right now.”

Arredondo also has formulated some long-term goals for herself, after she graduates from Westfield State in two years.

“After college I want to go into Law School,” said Arredondo. “I want to pursue a career in either Juvenile Law or Criminal Law.”

As many softball pitchers do after their softball playing career is over, Arredondo is considering the possibility of coaching high school or college softball to stay close to the game after she graduates, and pass on her confident, positive attitude to younger softball players.

“I’ve always wanted to help out coaches,” said Arredondo. “After I’m done with this season I will go back to Woburn and help Courtney (Sigsbury) coach the team. Then I will help out my travel coach this summer and work with their pitchers. I just want to do as much as I can to stay in the softball mind set.”

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