McMullen’s Goals: Improvement, Tourney Berth In Softball

Ken Hamwey Staff Sports Writer
Issue Date: 
April, 2018
Article Body: 

Sydney McMullen has some goals she’s hoping to achieve, and if she’s successful, it’s very likely Ashland’s softball team will qualify for the playoffs.
Last year, the right-handed pitcher posted a 5-8 record and had a 3.43 earned-run average. Now, as a tri-captain, the 5-foot-6 senior will be striving to increase her win total and lower her E.R.A. If she does, then the Clockers, who finished last season one victory shy of qualifying for the Sectional Tournament, will be preparing for post-season play.
“Our team has one goal and that’s to get to the tourney,’’ McMullen said. “We may be young since nine of last year’s players have graduated, but we’ve got talent, have lots of potential and our team chemistry is good. My personal objectives are to double my win total and get my E.R.A. down and the way to do that is to work hard every day.’’
McMullen started 17 of Ashland’s 20 games last year and that frequency isn’t about to change. Coach Steve Abbitine will again be relying heavily on McMullen, who was an honorable-mention Tri Valley League all-star last year.
“Sydney lost some close games,’’ Abbitine recalled. “We expect her to start most of our games again. She’s got grit, mental toughness, a strong work ethic and she’s committed to the sport. She’s got a good fastball and change-up and she’s working to improve her curve ball. A good control pitcher, she’s also a solid hitter.’’
The 17-year-old McMullen often helps her cause with her bat. Last year, she hit .391, had a home run, 11 extra-base hits, and her slugging percentage was .656. Against Medfield on the road last year, she was excellent on both fronts.
“That’s my most memorable game,’’ she said. “It was senior night for them but we won, 2-0, and I was able to pitch a shutout and help with a home run. The entire team played well and everyone contributed. What was cool was my dad caught the home-run ball.’’
What’s also cool is how readily McMullen’s accepts the reliance her team and coach place on her. “It’s about being prepared,’’ she said. “There’s no pressure if you’ve worked hard and strive to be your best. It’s a chance to prove myself and it’s an honor, too.’’
McMullen’s style on the mound is a blend of patience and an aggressive nature. At the plate, she’s an attacking hitter who analyzes the opposing pitcher thoroughly from the on-deck circle.
“When I’m pitching, I don’t like to rush,’’ she noted. “I like to envision where the ball will go. When I’m hitting, I’m more aggressive than patient. And, I study the pitcher. I like to watch her release and see if she shows some signs of nervousness.’’
What makes McMullen a solid two-way player are her overall strengths. Her positive nature and competitive drive are telling, whether she’s on the mound or at the plate.
“When I’m pitching, I rely on control and an ability to bounce back from a bad pitch,’’ she emphasized. “It’s also important to display leadership and mental toughness. At the plate, my attitude is positive, I strive for contact and I constantly assess what pitches to swing at. Where I need to improve is to get more velocity on my fastball, be faster on the bases and to get hits in pressure situations.’’
Rating her position as a captain “an honor and a thrill,’’ McMullen hopes to lead by example, by assisting teammates when needed and to be a role model. Two teammates she admires are fellow captains Jess DeBenedictis, a second baseman/catcher, and infielder Amy Cafarelli. “They’re quality leaders,’’ she said. “We all work well together and we share a passion for softball.’’
Also coming in for praise is Abbitine, who guided the Clockers to a 9-11 record in his rookie year. “Coach Abbitine is a motivator who knows the game and is easy to approach,’’ McMullen said. “He’s a big reason why we’ve improved.’’
Planning to major in business in college, McMullen has been accepted at 10 schools and expects to decide on a venue soon. “Most are Division 2 and 3 colleges and I’m leaning on playing softball at that level,’’ she indicated.
Winning is important for McMullen, who has played seven years of club softball. But she maintains that even more crucial is reaching one’s potential and having fun while competing. “If those things occur, then winning usually follows,’’ she said. “The key is always giving 100 percent.’’
Softball, like most sports, provides an opportunity to learn valuable life lessons and McMullen lists three that she’s embraced. “Building relationships, managing time and failure-recovery are ones that come to mind,’’ she noted. “Learning from your mistakes and being able to bounce back are very important.’’
Sydney McMullen is eager for opening day to arrive. That happens on April 3 at Medfield, and if her effort is similar to last year’s performance there, then the Clockers will be one step closer to achieving their goal of qualifying for the playoffs.