While we were away, the Hudson Valley Women’s softball team placed third in the nation and had a season for the ages.
The softball team lost to division rival Herkimer 8-3 in Rochester, Minnesota, on May 16, ending a run that no other Hudson Valley softball team has reached. They finished with a 14-1 home record and a 7-2 away record. The team posted a 22-5 record on the season, dropping five games total, four of which were at the hands of division rival Herkimer Generals, who placed second in the nation.
The Vikings got off to a fast start last year, winning their first 14 games of the season and setting the tone for a historic run. They finished the season third in the nation in both batting average and stolen bases. Other schools, like Clinton and Fulton-Montgomery, had games that were rained out and refused to reschedule the red-hot Viking team.
In regionals, the Vikings beat Genesee in two out of three games to advance to the national tournament in Rochester, Minnesota. In Rochester, they won their first game against the #3-ranked Cumberland 15-9 in extra innings. In the second game they lost to the #2-ranked Herkimer Generals 4-5, which sent them to the loser bracket. From there they won their next two games against #5 Brookdale (3-2) and #4 St. Cloud (2-1). Those two wins propelled them to the semifinal game, where they would face off against the pesky Generals. They lost 3-8, which ended their season.
Chris Mazzeo is entering his 4th season as head coach of the Vikings and has seen his team progress every season he’s been on the staff. In his first year coaching, the softball team posted a record of 8-12. The following year the team won three more games, with a 11-6 record. This past year the Vikings went 22-5 and finished third in the nation. This year, Mazzeo says his goal is to “win the national championship.” He said, “Second place is not an option this year.”
“We’re still a young program. I think we’ve progressed pretty fast,” said Mazzeo. “Probably the second-best season in Hudson Valley history happened in my third year.”
Mazzeo played baseball at Southern Vermont, where he became a hitting coach. After that, he transitioned into softball, which he coached for seven years at Heatly, a K-12 school in Green Island, New York. From there he took a job at Averill Park, where he turned around a team that had only won a couple games in a few years. When he left Averill Park, he gave hitting lessons and got the job at Hudson Valley. The rest is history.
Mazzeo has focused on recruiting local talent that fits his system. This past year was his first year that he believes he acquired local players that “buy into” his system. Team chemistry is a big part of the softball team’s success, and a lot of his players believe that last year’s team was the best team chemistry they’ve ever had.
“This is one of the best teams I’ve ever played on chemistry-wise,” said catcher Shelby Fenton, from Catholic Central. Shelby was a freshman last year and is returning to the team. She started playing softball at the age of 6, and it shows. This past year she hit .482 with 27 RBIs. Fenton plans to play at the next school she goes to but is currently not looking past the next season.
“I expect to go to nationals and hopefully come back with a win this year,” said Fenton. The team has five incoming pitchers for her to work with this year, versus the two they played with last year.
The consensus for the players and the coaching staff is to build off last year and use that as momentum to make another run at a National Championship this upcoming season. There is a new culture surrounding the softball program at Hudson Valley, and it looks like it’s here to stay.
The softball team here at Hudson Valley embodies what it really means to be a Viking. With many different backgrounds coming together, they found a way to get the job done and put our college in the national spotlight. For this year and years to come, the sky’s the limit with the philosophy of team chemistry, “buying into the system,” and playing the game the right way.