By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Some may not consider a 1-6 start to the season a good opening, but for the Bluefield State Lady Blues softball team it isn’t too bad.
Entering the 2013 season BSC had lost 29 consecutive games. That streak grew to 30 on Feb. 8 when the Lady Blues dropped their season opener to Clark Atlanta University. Later that day BSC took to the diamond against Benedict College and claimed a 6-5 win, snapping its streak of futility.
Against Benedict the potential of the team reared its head as Loren Whited was 2-for-3, her sister Lindsey was 1-4, scored two runs and had an RBI, and Kristin Hutchinson was 1-3 with two runs scored. The Lady Blues showed that they can win and that is very pleasing not only to the players but to new coach Carmelo Eleutiza.
Since that opening weekend in South Carolina where the BSC played four games, they have only been able to take to the diamond three times since due to Mother Nature. They are scheduled to play Tuesday at Salem International.
Eleutiza talked of the team and its performance in the four game stint that opened the season.
“We have eight newcomers. We’ve got six new freshmen and two Juco transfers from North Carolina,” he said. “It was a good win and you could see the excitement of the girls, having lost so many games last year. For them it was great.
“Even though we went 1-4, we lost two games in the last inning and all the other games we played were close. I am very pleased with the performance already, especially not being able to be out on the field, basically doing drills in the gym.”
One of the returners Eleutiza will turn to will be Cook, a Westside High School graduate and the team’s catcher. Cook drove in a run in Bluefield State’s victory and she is excited about the new season.
“It feels good. We didn’t have the greatest of seasons the past two years and it feels good to get off on the right foot,” Cook said. “We’re batting well, we’re playing well. I just can’t wait to see how we continue to do.”
Cook continued, talking about what she thinks are the cornerstones of this year’s BSC team.
“Our pitching and our batting (are strengths),” Cook said. “That has definitely changed from past seasons. We have been struggle in both areas and this year they are pretty strong.”
Cook attributes the improved hitting to the time spent in the indoor practice facility at the Ned Shott Gymnasium.
“We’ve been having three-hour practices and that’s what we do the most, work on tees, work on pitching machines, soft toss,” Cook pointed out. “We swing the bat a lot during practice.”
It helps also that the girls on the team are a close-knit group.
“We goof off, we’re a bunch of nuts and we’re a family,” Cook said. “We have a bunch of girls and it feels good to get along with every single teammate the way we do. We don’t have any animosity or anything on our team. We all get along.”
Eleutiza, also the volleyball coach at Bluefield State, is in his first year as head softball coach. The native of Puerto Rico played baseball from the age of six into his late teens and has coached softball at various levels.
“I moved from Puerto Rico to Orlando and have been living in Orlando for eight years,” Eleutiza said. “I coached softball back home in Puerto Rico, but it’s completely different because in Puerto Rico we don’t play fast pitch, we play slow pitch. It’s a little bit different.”
While he has a knowledge of the game, Eleutiza is intent on broadening his knowledge of the sport at the college level and is reaching out to gain more information.
“I’m reading, searching, contacting Division I coaches and just trying to get feedback from them on how the game is played. I feel that is helping me increase my knowledge. I like to research and I like to talk to the people that I really know are on the top of the game. I’m trying to improve my game too.”
Weather permitting, the Lady Blues will play at Salem International, Tuesday afternoon.