After the St. Vincent Pallotti softball team won three straight pre-season scrimmages they opened up conference play with a 16-0 loss to St. Paul's, but first year coach Jasmine Gammons wasn't going to lose confidence in her young squad.
"I was just telling them, don't get discouraged, we are just going to keep practicing and we are just going to keep getting better, because they are better than they played in that game against St. Paul's," Gammons said.
They have lost four straight since that opening loss, but they did come close while falling to Annapolis Area Christian School, 5-3.
Gammons knows all about getting better, because that's what she did as a player for four years at Howard University.
In her senior year, she batted .408 and led the team in home runs (8), RBIs (32), runs (22) and slugging percentage (.708).
She started there as a catcher and eventually played second base, shortstop, third base and outfield.
"With me, I went out of my way to get better as a player because that's what I wanted to do," said Gammons, who played for a talented prep team at Lake Howell High in Florida. "In high school we won a lot of regional championships."
Her sheer joy for the game is what led her to search for a coaching position.
"I'm just really into softball," Gammons said. " I love it. It's really my passion and since I can't play anymore, I still feel like I want to give back."
Her versatility as a player will help her find the right positions for her current players to achieve success.
"I can teach you outfield. I can teach you how to play infield, but I can't really teach you how to pitch," said Gammons, noting her desire to become a pitcher never materialized.
The fact that the top two pitchers for the Panthers, freshmen Ysabella Monzon-Osorio and Colby Cureton, have travel softball experience should be a big help.
Monzon-Osorio belted a double against St. Paul's.
Catching the pitching duo is junior Colleen Blasko.
"She is a great player and a phenomenal hitter," Gammons said.
Blasko, who played shortstop last season, was Pallotti's only All-Conference selection when the Panthers went 1-12 overall and 0-9 in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland B Conference.
"I know last year wasn't so great and we started out this season so good in the beginning, we had a scrimmage with Laurel which went really well and we had a playday and we won two games and that went really well," said Gammons, who saw signs they weren't ready for prime time the day before the opener against St. Paul's. "They had a really rough practice the day before the game, so you can bring your practices into your games."
Since that loss on March 27, Gammons has been tinkering with the starting positions.
"My girls know that they will earn their position and every ounce of playing time they earn it through practice," Gammons said. "No one really has a set position. I'm still learning the girls as they are learning me. I know they have the talent to play anywhere that I put them."
In the St. Paul's game, the infield consisted of juniors Kennedy Essex (1B) and Coreena Brodgen (2B), Danasia Hill (SS) and Cureton (3B).
Brogden can also play the outfield.
The starting outfield against the Gators was junior left fielder Alexis Biggs, senior center fielder Emma Sweeney and junior right fielder Ayanna Green.
Pallotti reserves included juniors Emma Bastian (OF) and Jacqueline Smith (2B/OF), sophomores TyNiah Bates (3B), Kaylen Hurst (OF) and RyLee Roberts (C/3B) and freshman Lexington Kurdyla (2B).
During the pre-season, the new coach likes her team's offensive approach,
"They were good contact hitters," she said.
Defense is where she thinks the team needs to jell.
"I feel like what we need to work on most is our fielding and communication because once they lack communication, it's like, they don't know what to do with the ball," Gammons said. "They are young and I understand it, but communication is key when it comes to any defensive play."
She does appreciate the way the team has bonded off the field.