The College of Southern Maryland softball team begins their 2021 season on March 17, travelling to Bel Air, Maryland, to play a doubleheader against the Harford Fighting Owls. First pitch of Game 1 is set for 3 p.m.

It will have been more than a year since the Hawks last played in competition against another opponent. Their last games came on March 13, 2020, when the Hawks beat the Garrett College Lakers 19-0 in five innings twice in a doubleheader.

It’s been a challenging road to get to this point for third-year head coach Becca Collins and her players, but they’re glad they are finally here.

“This feeling is unlike any other,” Collins said. “These young women have worked so hard over the past eight months without any games, just practices. They have stayed focused, determined, and together. Our excitement is over the top.”

The Hawks have eight first-year players on their roster this season, and Collins is expecting big things from them early on.

“Coach Amber and I are looking to the bulk of that freshman class to make an immediate impact to the program,” Collins said. “They are, and have been, the heartbeat to this program this year. I am very impressed with their commitment and work ethic. I have very high expectations for this freshman class and I don’t think they will disappoint.”

There is also a solid group of returners that will bring much-needed experience and leadership to the team, headlined by third-year players Skylar Clark and Rachel Polk.

“Rachel will be at the center of our infield as she has been for the past two years,” Collins said. “Her leadership and competitive nature, I believe, will be a huge asset to the younger players.” Clark has led the Hawks in innings pitched the last two seasons, and Collins is expecting her to do the same this year.

“Having the returning players has been a blessing in itself,” Collins said. “This opportunity would not have been an option without COVID-19, so I am glad they were able to work out another year with this program.

“This team is going to be dynamic. Every player on this team can play multiple infield/outfield positions at a high level. It is going to be great to see which combinations fit to our style of play.”

Collins said one of the most important things the team will have to focus on in order to win is their confidence in their ability, both individually and as a team.

“At this point, this team needs to focus on playing together and trusting intuition. With a majority of our lineup being young, they need to continue to reassure themselves that they are great enough; [they can] not only be one of the most successful teams CSM softball has seen in a long time, but they also have the ability to inspire young girls as they continue to work hard both academically and athletically.”

Collins said she is most looking forward to getting back to a competitive environment and the playoffs.

“Not being able to finish the season and have that playoff chance was gut-wrenching,” Collins said. “The 2020 team worked all year to compete for a full spring season and spring break trip that never got to happen. Being given the ability to play a season and have a playoff is something that continues to give us hope and inspire us to be better every time we step on the field. It gives us a glimpse that just maybe things will be normal again.

“Being part of the collegiate athletic community both as a coach and former player, I can honestly say that living through a spring without collegiate playoffs was a physical and mental ache that I am not sure we knew how to handle at the time. However, what this has done is made us appreciate, value, and fight for something that – as we now know – is irreplaceable.  The bond sports brings to our country through the inspiration of student-athletes is breathtaking.  I don’t think we as coaches will ever take for granted the ability to watch these young athletes grow in just the few short months of competition play. I am eternally grateful to all the student-athletes who continue to make the sacrifices to attend practices, team meetings, and games. I look forward to seeing all of our competitors on the field and can’t wait to see how this season unfolds.”

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