Sports Person of the Week
Solis Proved Solid at the Hot Corner
Melissa Solis made huge strides with the Westbrook softball squad, working hard to become reliable fielder and a productive bat for the Knights. (Photo courtesy of Melissa Solis )
Melissa Solis came a long way during her tenure with the Westbrook softball team. Melissa played third base for the Knights, and the recent graduate was slated to start at the hot corner as a senior this spring. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the cancellation of all spring sports, so Melissa and her teammates never had the opportunity to compete.
Melissa’s accomplishments on the softball field are impressive, especially considering that her first foray into the sport came as a freshman. Melissa grew up playing soccer, which she also played at Westbrook, but didn’t take up softball until her freshman year. After learning a lot from her teammates and coaches, Melissa went from being strictly a JV player as a freshman to playing significant varsity innings in her junior season.
“I started off on JV knowing absolutely nothing my freshman year. As I started training during the offseason, I got a lot better. Freshman year, my friend Kylie Magee was the varsity third baseman, and she was giving me a lot of advice. She was someone that I looked up to,” Melissa says. “Sophomore year, I started getting some time on the varsity field and, junior year, I got a lot more time on varsity, too. Senior year, I was going to be the starter, before everything happened.”
Melissa remembers what it was like when she first put on a glove and hit the diamond. Playing third base requires quick reflexes—hence the nickname “hot corner”—and Melissa had to hone her craft in order to be effective at the position.
“At first it was rough, but I’m pretty good at catching and throwing. It wasn’t that bad after a while,” says Melissa. “It started that I wasn’t even getting close to first base when I was throwing there, but I was eventually just thinking about getting the person out. Getting the ball to first base felt like an accomplishment. It was something that I knew I had to do, but it was also a bit of a relief when I did. Junior year was when I gained more confidence.”
As time went by, Melissa became a surehanded third baseman. After that, performing at the plate became her focus. Melissa spent countless hours in the batting cage tweaking her stance to get an extra edge on offense.
“At first, I was really bad at batting, but when I made contact, it went pretty far. I was improving so much, though, and I wanted to show off how much I improved my senior year. I had my stance and everything. My batting had changed so much. I wish I had a shot at that,” Melissa says. “Fielding came so easy to me. It wasn’t so hard. It was hard to get my form while batting. That was more of a struggle, but I gained that confidence. I learned a lot from my teammates and my coaches, as well.”
In addition to showing what she learned to her teammates, Melissa was also looking forward to helping Westbrook make a run at the playoffs this year. During Melissa’s junior year, the Knights got out to a slow start, but qualified for states by season’s end. Melissa thought that she and her fellow seniors had a shot to turn some heads in 2020.
“We were all training, and then we found out the season wasn’t going to happen. It was tough, because I really wanted a chance to play. It was heartbreaking for the seniors, because it was our turn to show what we had,” says Melissa. “We were really trying to get things going early, and it was looking good, but then corona happened. We wanted to make this year like one of those years where everyone says, ‘Wow, who would have thought they could do this?’”
Head Coach Caitlin Eichler would have felt confident penciling Melissa’s name into the lineup every game this year had she been given the opportunity. Eichler says that Melissa brought much more to the Knights than her abilities on the field.
“Melissa is very impressive. She was able to hit the ball and make solid contact, which was a big help. She has great reaction time. When the ball was hit hard, her glove would find the ball. It’s hard to find someone with that natural ability,” says Eichler. “Melissa has a lot of grit and tenacity, and she really knew how to bring out the best in her teammates. You could always hear her cheering at the top of her lungs. Every team needs players like that.”
Melissa will be joining the nursing program at Southern Connecticut State University, where she plans to continue playing softball on an intramural basis. After having such a great experience with the Westbrook softball squad, Melissa hopes to continue playing the sport for as long as she can.
“I want to play intramural softball at Southern. I didn’t try out for the team, because I want to focus on school more, but I’m really going to miss it. That’s why I want to try to do intramural,” Melissa says. “I was really close with my senior friends on the team. We grew together, and we made each other more confident. I love softball because of that group. We understood each other.”