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After playing first base last year, senior captain Eryn Sheeley was looking forward to taking the ball as the starting pitcher for the North Haven softball squad this spring. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Indians’ softball Head Coach Karen Castagnola gives Alex Ferriouolo a low-five during a game from the 2019 season. Even with so many players having graduated, Castagnola had high hopes for North Haven in the 2020 campaign. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Jordan Maenza is one of the juniors who was expected to step up and fill a key role for the North Haven softball team this year. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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Senior Eryn Sheeley waited 10 years for her chance to take the mound as a starting pitcher for the North Haven softball team. Sheeley began pitching when she was eight and waited patiently for her name to be called. Last year, Sheeley played first base while 2019 graduate Lauren Card pitched for the Indians. As Sheeley was getting ready for her senior year, she found out that the 2020 campaign was going to be her time to step into the circle.
Sheeley was happy to play first base for North Haven for the first time as a junior. Still, Sheeley was hoping that when her senior season arrived, she would be on the mound with her teammates behind her, vying to win as many games as possible. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented Sheeley and her fellow Indians from playing any games this year.
“When I was talking to other girls on the team, we were all just really upset. We were excited to play. It was our last year, and it was the year we were going to go out as seniors,” Sheeley said. “I waited a few years to pitch and for me not to get that opportunity is really hard. It’s tough for me and the other seniors. We were waiting our turn. It hasn’t set in yet that we aren’t playing. Right now, we would probably be practicing or playing. It’s really upsetting.”
Sheeley and fellow seniors Julia Lockery and Juliana Jones were named the captains for this year’s edition of the Indians. North Haven was also returning fellow seniors Payton Hebert and Ally Vauiso, as well as juniors Alex Ferriouolo, Olivia Olson, Sydney Maenza, and Jordan Maenza.
The Indians were entering a year in which they had to replace 10 graduating seniors after going 22-4, winning their third-straight division title, and making their second-consecutive appearance in SCC final last spring. However, Head Coach Karen Castagnola didn’t view the 2020 season as a rebuilding year. Castagnola had faith that the returning upper class athletes would be able to continue the program’s recent run of success.
“We were going to do a lot of different things, a lot of small ball, but we had a lot of really good players behind the tent,” Coach Castagnola said. “I didn’t think we were losing much. I thought we were going to be competitive. They were ready to be competitive, they had something to prove, and they wanted to prove it. They were ready.”
Castagnola was expecting Ferriouolo and Jordan Maenza to step up at the shortstop and catcher positions, respectively, this year. She was also looking for her three senior captains to bring consistency to the Indians and lead the team into a new era on the ballfield.
“All three are great athletes, and I know that they were waiting. It was tough for them, because we had 10 seniors last year,” said Castagnola. “Eryn would have been our pitcher, and she would have had a phenomenal year. She’s a power pitcher. She was waiting to get there. She works really hard.”
“Juliana was our utility player. She could have played anywhere. We were hoping to fill the shoes of Peyton Davis in center field,” Castagnola continued. “We were deciding whether to play Lockery at first base or second base. We were hoping. We were getting ready for it. They were ready for any position. They’ve been working since January.”
Despite the season being canceled, the Indians have been staying connected. Sheeley describes the team as a close-knit group and said that everyone remained supportive of one another when the campaign was in limbo. Sheeley and fellow captains Lockery and Jones were frequently texting their teammates, making sure that they stayed up to date with any news.
Coach Castagnola echoed Sheeley’s sentiments by calling the North Haven softball squad a family. Castagnola said that everyone stayed in touch and was eager to potentially take the field right up until the announcement came that no games would be played.
“We all back each other up. We are a family,” said Castagnola. “The team plays well together. They spent the whole year together, from fall ball to conditioning. We got together at my house in March, and we all had snacks and talked softball. They were excited. They loved getting together once a week to talk about it.”
Even with no senior season, Sheeley still has many fond memories of playing softball for North Haven. She remembers hitting her first grand slam against Sacred Heart Academy as a sophomore, in addition to helping the Indians win their first SCC title during that same season. Above all else, Sheeley will always remember her journey as a softball player, along with all the positive experiences that she’s shared with her teammates along the way.
“It was great. I was so thankful to get the opportunity to play on this team, and I’m so thankful. My coaches, from Coach [Sally] Maher to Coach Karen and Roy Castagnola, they taught me so much both on and off the field,” Sheeley said. “Since I was four years old and I first picked up a ball, my parents supported me in everything I did. Even with everything going on, my parents found a way to make it better. I can’t thank them enough. North Haven softball is about creating a family atmosphere and family aspects, so that everyone feels included. That’s what softball taught me.”
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