'It's about trying to learn': Arlington softball returns after a year's hiatus

Thursday April 25, 2013


Sports Editor

ARLINGTON -- Yes, the Arlington Memorial High School softball team did lose 22-1 on Wednesday afternoon to Black River.

But, despite being 0-3 so far this season, the Eagles have already won -- the fact they are on the field and playing makes all the difference.

Last year, Arlington canceled the season after one game to give them a chance to recruit new players. So while there are losses, the team is competing.

"It's about trying to learn, trying to get a team together and build it for my junior and senior years," said sophomore Celia Smith. "We're trying to build a team, learn the basic skills, get good sportsmanship and get girls excited about softball here at Arlington."

Smith and junior Cathy Farrell are the only two players with any varsity experience for the Eagles, playing in 2011 -- a season where they went winless.

"Technically they're all freshman, because only those two have played on the varsity," said Arlington coach Donn Griswold. "They come up through the junior high ranks, but it's very different."

Against Black River, the Eagles had nine eligible players, the bare minimum to start a game. So Griswold pulled up two eighth-graders from the junior high team to fill out the roster.

"It's hard to get girls at all, no one wants to play," Smith said. "Softball is dying in our school, there's no school spirit about it."

Black River coach Howard Paul knows all about the perilousness of a small roster. Last year, the Presidents were 6-11 and only had 10 players on the roster.

"You have to check the attendance thing every day, make sure kids are at school and not sick, an injury can end your season," said Paul, who has 14 players on the roster in 2013. "In Division IV, we dont have the luxury of having [junior varsity] teams, our JV is our middle school team."

Enrollment numbers are down as a whole in the state of Vermont. In the 2011-2012 school year, Arlington Memorial had 177 students total, and only 69 females from grades 9-12. Since 2003, enrollment has gone from 247 to 177 at Arlington.

"Kids want to do so many things," Paul said. "Kids commit to a sport and then they want to go to France with their French club. They're gone for two weeks and that can hurt the program."

Arlington and Black River has been a big rivalry for a number of years. The teams met in the Division IV semifinals in 2007 with the Presidents winning 5-1.

"It's always great competition, we really missed not playing them last year," Paul said. "It was great to come back out here, even though the score was lopsided, it's great to have them back."

Four other players who are academically ineligible should be back with the team by today, Griswold said.

"When we have 13 or 14, we put the kids where we need to," Griswold said. "We can pick and choose where they play. That's the difference, when someone gets hurt, you can put the next one there. We had an eighth grader at third base [Wednesday], she stepped up and did it. I wish others would come and play too."

There's a lot of hope in Arlington to get the program back to where it was a few years ago -- the Eagles reached three finals in a row from 1999-2001, winning championships in 1999 and 2001.

"I see the talent in these kids, it's just a matter of staying together as a nucleus," Griswold said.

"It's just all about learning," Smith said. "Someone makes a mistake and you fix it for the next game. It's not about getting angry, just having fun and being excited [about softball]."


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