Summer Play Provides Valuable Experience for Three Tigers
Sept. 24, 2012
As the summer is usually a relaxing break for students, some of the members of the Memphis Tigers softball team were hard at work preparing for the upcoming 2013 season. Senior Lelani Bernardino, junior Ellen Roberts and sophomore Sara Pearson all played competitive softball during their summer break.
"I think a lot of them went home over the summer and thought about what they could do to get better" said Memphis head coach Natalie Poole. "Some of them are able to focus on other things outside of the pressure they see here. I think we are starting in a better place this year as we have already begun leadership classes, sports psychology and I am excited about our team chemistry. I like the fact that the girls have already been spending time together."
Senior Lelani Bernadino kept improving her softball skills this summer by playing left field for the Crusaders Open Team in California. The Crusaders are a mix of NCAA Division I and Division II softball players from all around the country, including players from the Pac-12, SEC and the BIG EAST Conference.
As the leadoff batter for the Crusaders, Bernadino played in every game over a seven-week stretch, and the team finished third at the Fastpitch Championship Invitational in Henderson, Nev. Bernardino made the All-FCI first team after hitting .692 with a .733 on-base percentage in the tournament.
Bernadino redshirted last year and is excited to be back this spring playing for Memphis.
"My goal this summer was to prepare myself to come back and be a big help to my team this year, since I missed a lot of time last year," Bernardino said. "It's fun because now I get to go on the field with them, so I don't have to just cheer from the sideline. I can actually encourage them and stand right next to them on the field."
Junior Ellen Roberts did not have a normal summer break like the rest of the team. As Roberts comes to Memphis from Westleigh, Australia, she enjoyed a winter break (as our summer is Australia's winter). She is not only a pitcher for the Tigers, but for the Kissing Point Sports Club, Northshore and the Adaleine Shores team. She pitched and hit in the Grade A women's open competition every Saturday. Roberts, even pitched to her old teammate catcher, Rachel Sechi (who now catches for Robert Morris University) in every game this past season.
Roberts, once again advanced to the North Shore squad, and won states with the team this season. North Shore is made up of all the best players from the Kissing Point Sports Club. The North Shore District Softball Association Inc., has 11 affiliated clubs with more than 1,500 registered players and official members.
As Robert's comes back to the states for another year, she was happy to have kept playing softball all winter long.
"It's great to go home because there is not a lot of break time," Roberts said. "There are a few of us who go to college in America, so it's nice to come home and share experiences with them. It's also great playing with them because it keeps me pitching, hitting and my mind in the game. I love coming back here and getting back to competition."
Sara Pearson, a sophomore pitcher from Somerville, Ohio, took the mound this past summer for the Miami Valley Express Team. The Miami Valley Express is affiliated with the Miami Valley Sports Foundation and also the Fastpitch Headquarters. It is a non-profit charity that helps youth in the community reach their athletic and academic potential as well as building sportsmanship, teamwork and self-confidence. The teams are comprised of the best players in the area who play against some of the best competition in the country. Pearson was busy for the Express team, pitching in all five tournaments this summer. After only limited playing time in the circle last season for the Tigers, Pearson feels that getting back on the mound this past summer was a tremendous self-confidence booster.
"This summer I got a lot of experience I needed to get," Pearson said. I played outfield, first base, pitched every third game and hit in each game. This summer also helped me get back on the mound; get back into my game and what I need to do. My focus is to get on the mound and pitch as much as I can, because that's what I came here to do. Additionally, as long as I can keep up my hitting and confidence like I had this summer, I think everything will work out."
Memphis will open its fall exhibition schedule this week. The Tigers host cross-town Christian Brothers University in a doubleheader on Friday at the Tiger Softball Complex beginning at 5 p.m. Memphis will then play a team comprised of players from the National Professional Fastpitch (NPF) league on Saturday at First Tennessee Fields in Cordova, Tenn., at 7 p.m. as part of the NPF's "Back to School Tour."