Fate has propelled Dutch softball, captains say; team enters season on high note

The Enterprise — Jordan J. Michael

Focal point: Gabby Marino — one of six returning seniors for the defending Class AA champion Guilderland softball team — looks at the ball before hitting it off a tee at practice on Tuesday. Marino, the daughter of Coach Lou Marino, will play catcher this season.

The Enterprise — Jordan J. Michael

Winding up to throw the softball to first base on Tuesday is Guilderland sophomore Victoria Rathwell; it was the Dutch’s first outside practice of the year. Guilderland won a Class AA championship last season, its first title since 1998.

The Enterprise — Jordan J. Michael

Mud stop: Junior Stephanie LeClair stretches out to field the softball at practice on Tuesday for Guilderland. LeClair was called up to varsity for sectionals last year; Ali Reiner, Madison Harrigan, Karly Burg, and Lisa Topaltzas are new additions for the Dutch in 2014.

The Enterprise — Jordan J. Michael

Happy catch: Junior Eileen Seery squeezes the softball into her glove; Head Coach Lou Marino was hitting fly balls to the Guilderland players at practice on Tuesday.

The Enterprise — Jordan J. Michael

With his hood up, and shades on, Guilderland softball Head Coach Lou Marino speaks to his players at Tuesday’s practice. The Dutch won a championship last season. 

GUILDERLAND — Fate is defined as a supposed force, a principle or power that determines events, or, a final result, consequence, outcome, destiny, or doom. For the Dutch softball team, it’s a rite of passage for building championships.

Focus. Attitude. Team. Effort. That is the motto for Guilderland, and it has been since Lou Marino took over as head coach in 2012.

That season, the Dutch made the Class AA finals, a stage the team had not reached in some time, losing a tight game to Shenendehowa. In 2013, Guilderland won its first championship in 15 years.

“He sat us down, and was like, ‘Focus, attitude, team, and effort,’” senior Tori Greco remembers of that first outdoor practice in 2012, spitting the words out in rapid fire. “So, when he yells F.A.T.E. at us now, we know what it means; we understand.”

Senior Abi Peck, who is on the shelf for this season, recovering from a torn left anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), said that F.A.T.E. is sentimental. “It’s a bonding thing,” she said.

Each week, Dutch teammates are separated into four teams of three players each; the groupings change week to week. Each team represents a letter of F.A.T.E., and, after each practice, players have to pick which team best showed focus, attitude, team, or effort. At Tuesday’s practice, team Eileen Seery scored 100 points, claiming both focus and effort.

Marino said that rewards can be anything from cookies to carrying his softball bag. Peck keeps track of the point totals on her phone.

Senior Taylor Tewksbury, who may be Guilderland’s strongest pitcher, said that the words that form F.A.T.E. describe what the Dutch are all about. The six seniors on the team have grown up together, Greco said, and the chemistry of the entire team has never been better.

“Fate has propelled us,” Tewksbury said. “We weren’t at the top of our game before, and then we started focusing on the team, the group, and working together.”

“It’s something that we can all collectively work on together,” Greco said of the Dutch motto. “If we’re cheering each other on, we have a good attitude, then we have the team, and everyone is working hard.”

Marino is a spirited coach, bringing intensity and humor to the diamond, and he explains softball theories well. On Tuesday, every player listened and responded to what he had to say.

“We have to work on our playing before we can have fun with the other stuff,” Peck said. “But, it’s really fun.”

Since Marino took the helm, there has been a consistent progression of success for the Dutch. What’s going to happen in 2014?

“We’re going to win it all,” Greco said.

How has winning changed the team attitude?

“The mindset [to win] is always there,” Peck said. “It’s more for the young girls to see that we aren’t joking around anymore. We’re all at this state — there are no other options except to win. The younger girls will have to grow up, and realize that this is in us all, in our heads. It’s no longer a question of doing well.”

Peck sounded like a coach, and, since she can’t play the role of starting catcher, she’s more or less become another assistant for Marino. Peck’s mother, Lisa, is Marino’s official assistant.

Despite the injury, Peck hasn’t lost her college scholarship to play softball at Pfeiffer University next year, but she says it’s not about individual players, and it never has been.

“I’m not cool with not playing, but these girls lift my spirits more than I could ever lift theirs, so it’s about giving back to them,” Peck said. “I can’t be worrying about myself.”

Tewksbury told The Enterprise that it will be a little strange not having Peck catch her pitching, but she’s confident in senior Gabby Marino, the coach’s daughter, who will be stepping up to the plate. Marino has played plenty of games as a catcher.

“It’s a major loss; she’s essential, but she’s still with us,” Greco said of Peck. “Nothing has changed except her being on the field. We still have her spirit, if not more.”

Any team that wins a championship will most certainly want to feel that bliss again, so Guilderland’s expectations are high.

It’s not just people around us, but for ourselves, we know what we can accomplish,” Tewksbury said. “Anything short of that is not success.”

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